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1. Diamond Retailer Summit returns to Baltimore in 2015

diamondfl49fh Diamond Retailer Summit returns to Baltimore in 2015

After several years travelling around the country—three years in Chicago and then earlier this year in Las Vegas—Diamond is holding its 2015 Retailer Summit in Baltimore from September 23-25. The dates not only piggy back on the Baltimore Comic-Con but bring the show close to Diamond’s Timonium, MD headquarters.

It’s a pretty good double for everyone—the laid back and friendly Baltimore show segues nicely into the retail-focused programming of the summit. And there will be a LOT to talk about, as we keep saying. Here’s the announcement:

Diamond Comic Distributors has announced that its 2015 Retailer Summit for comic book specialty retailers will take place September 23-25, 2015 in Baltimore, MD.

“We’re excited to bring the Summit back to Diamond’s home turf of Charm City,” said Roger Fletcher, Diamond’s VP-Sales & Marketing. “We had a great event in Las Vegas last year and we hope to exceed that in terms of growth and retailer satisfaction with the 2015 Summit.”

Diamond also announced that it will partner with Baltimore Comic-Con, which will be held right after the Summit from September 25-27, to share marketing and strategic initiatives for the combined events. Baltimore Comic-Con’s Exhibit Hall will serve as the Summit’s Exhibit Hall during special “Retailer Only” hours.

“Our 15th annual show in 2014 was our biggest show to date,” said Marc Nathan, promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. “It’s only going to get bigger and better. Baltimore Comic-Con, coupled with Diamond’s Retailer Summit, should make for one of the best regional comic-con shows ever held.”

Now in its 13th year, Diamond’s Retailer Summit is the leading annual event for comic book specialty retailers to meet with publishers and vendors, and come together with fellow retailers to discuss the industry and their businesses. Top publishers such as Dark Horse Comics, DC Entertainment, IDW Publishing, Image Comics, and Marvel Comics come and share exciting new projects, while retailers get to network and learn about new business practices to help them succeed and thrive in today’s retailing environment.

Additional details and registration for the industry’s annual retailer event will be announced in early 2015. Publishers and vendors who would like to sponsor or exhibit at the Baltimore Comic-Con should contact Chris McClelland (registrar@baltimorecomiccon.com) now for additional information. 

 

0 Comments on Diamond Retailer Summit returns to Baltimore in 2015 as of 11/20/2014 1:24:00 PM
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2. The Retailer’s View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two)

With both Marvel and DC running big, somewhat vague multiverse spanning crossovers this year, I decided to take some time to go over what retailers would be looking for from both of these series. Last week (a day before more details were released about the event), I went over the shape of Convergence and what it could do to move the sales needle. Today, I’m hitting Secret Wars.

Age of Ultron vs Marvel Zombies 2015 The Retailers View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two)

SECRET WARS

While Convergence is an event being built out of near necessity, Secret Wars is an event that’s emerging from years of planning on the part of Marvel and writer Jonathan Hickman. Both approaches have their pros and cons. While I’m really enjoying Hickman’s work on the Avengers line, it was never anything I would be able to hand to a new reader easily – and his work on the title has only gotten more complex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have several titles on the stands that new readers can easily gravitate to like Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Hawkeye – but when it comes to the big event, you want to try and make that thing as accessible as possible. DC can theoretically do this with Convergence by structuring their event as a low-threshold buy-in, featuring two part stories that exist without too much connective tissue. Marvel could theoretically do this, but there’s very little known about the actual structure of Secret Wars beyond the fact that it will be impossible to escape if you’re interested in their line.

The unfortunate part for people who are afraid or intimidated by it is, if you’re following Marvel Comics, you’re not going to be able to get away from it. This is a profound and huge moment in the history of Marvel, and it’s going to reverberate throughout the entire line, except maybe Star Wars.

-Tom Brevoort, from his interview at CBR on Friday

On the one hand, this sounds cool an ambitious – especially given the fact that many Marvel editors and creators have stated Secret Wars will effect Marvel through other forms of media as well. A project on that scale would be a cool thing to be a part of, even as a spectator.

On the other hand, an event with so much connective tissue also breeds a high level of incomprehension. While it’s all well and good to market to the hardcore audience every now and then, it’s long term murder to build a story that only your die-hards are going to appreciate the whole shape of. Built without some finesse, this event could be a very cool way to lose a lot of interest in your product. Built correctly, however, and you could turn a lot of casual fans into die-hards.

The first thing I would do, is have the event function on it’s own. Yes, it’s the culmination of a few years worth of storytelling, but keep the ideas at the core relatively simple. At first blush, it looks as though all the reality crashing that’s been happening across Hickman’s Avengers books will come to a head as all realities meld into one, saving everyone briefly before human nature takes over and territorial fights start to erupt. The key to running this would be to address the circumstances, but keep things simple. Speaking from experience, you can kill a person’s interest in something by explaining it to death before they have a chance to read it. Give people two sentences of description, and include a bit of meat on the bones to whet the palate. If they want to bite, they might go back and explore how things got to where they are, and if they don’t, you’re not implying that they have a big knowledge gap that they have to fill. I would go with a simple declarative, “realities have condensed on themselves, and it’s up to us to keep the peace”. Boom. Concept dropped, with the slight implication of history for those who are interested in going back to check things out.

x men 92 111328 The Retailers View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two)

Beyond that, the structure of the thing will have to be addressed. The main event should be self contained, requiring nobody to push out into other series to grab the whole context. Any other series that push out from there (presumably, the ones that feature specific realities as teased by Marvel over the past few weeks) should be able to function on their own, and be enjoyed on their own accord. Any ongoings that tie into this structure should be able to function as well. What I expect is for something akin to the original Secret Wars series to happen. One month, things are normal, and the next, Spider-Man is running around in a new costume, and people are left wondering until the facts are slowly revealed. This would point new readers back to the big series for more information, but again, if played right, will not require them to do so.

What I want to be true? Marvel pulling a bit of a fast one, pretending as though they are following the original Secret Wars formula by having different realities “infect” certain titles, before returning to a slightly altered states-quo when the event is wrapped. It would play beautifully into a culture of overly specific fan service, offering people a glimpse into realities and eras that the wish never went away, while not fundamentally changing the line in an irreparable way. Note: this seems to be what DC is doing with the two issue minis, offering people a glimpse into realities where Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon get married, where Stephanie Brown remained as Batgirl, where Wally West exists as he did with his family, and so forth and so on. Fan service bait, before a reversion of sorts to a structure that might not be pleasing to all, but cohesive enough to function on the larger scale both companies need.

In the end, I know the shapes of all of these events has already been decided, and that my natterings will have absolutely no effect on the shape of anything. That said, I always think it’s good for companies to take into account structures that would fit the needs of retailers in addition to their budgets, sales goals, and creative input. While retailers can be dragged along a certain amount, at some point, they’ll either wise up, or go out of business, and both options are lose lose for publishers. Build these events to welcome as many people as possible, market the hell out of it, and you’ll do just fine. Allow ambition and sales goals to dictate structure, and you could very well end up with a universe breaking event. That will sour retailers and fans alike on the aftermath – and in an industry built on the perpetual second act, that’s not a good thing.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Is there more? Maybe. I’d still like to hear what you have to say about Convergence and Secret Wars. What do you like from events. What do you want from events? Comment below, and I might address them in a third part to this series.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

4 Comments on The Retailer’s View // A Confluence of Events (Part Two), last added: 11/19/2014
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3. TGI-FOC: Degree of Variants

It’s the return of The Beat’s weekly look at comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of retail process that doesn’t merit a full column. The last time I tried to write one of these, I ended up staring at the screen as it blurred at 2am the night before I got married. That column never went up because it was clearly the product of jitters and hardly made a lick of sense. Oh, by the way, I got married, you guys. So there’s that.

IMAGE VARIANTS

Yesterday, Image announced a neat initiative that will see several of their books get The Wicked + The Divine variant covers in December, the first few of which are on this week’s FOC.

bitchplanetmckelviewilson 6f1ce 668x1028 TGI FOC: Degree of Variants

There’s a certain amount of genus involved in this campaign. First off, the rabid following Gillen and McKelvie have fostered over the years are going to eat these two up. In doing so, you’re going to see a fair amount of people expressing interest in a few titles that they might not have checked out before. That’s pretty cool. Add to that the fact that all of the titles receiving this treatment are either new #1s, or starting points for new arcs, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic cross-marketing opportunity that would be pretty hard to screw up.

Now let’s talk about how they screwed this up.

Instead of offering the variants as 50/50 style “order whatever you want” variants, Image is placing a 1 for 15 qualifier on the books, which means retailers will only be able to order a single copy for every 15 copies on the stands. Qualified variants such as that always stick in my craw. I’m not a big fan of variants in general (a longer column for another day), but I can at least get behind variants that you can order without qualification. That says you’re offering another variety for a reader to sample, letting them choose what cover they’d like. That, I understand. Qualified variants, on the other hand, are the dirt worst. They’re a dirty manipulation of the whole “supply and demand” market designed for cheap, easy money, both for publishers and retailers alike. If a retailer wants a bigger supply, they will have to order more copies. In order to cover the cost of those copies (many of which won’t sell), they will charge a premium for that cover. And hey, even if they don’t need to charge a premium to cover the costs of extra copies, they’ll probably mark it up because of the low supply, and the high demand.

shuttermckelviewilson 17964 2 668x1028 TGI FOC: Degree of Variants

When publishers do this, they are saying they value the collectors market more than they value the readers market – or at the very least, they’re willing to exploit broken parts of the system in order to achieve some short term gain. Unlike when Marvel and DC pump out anywhere from 13 to 52 different variants for a single series, I do believe that Image’s intent here is to get more eyeballs onto some well deserving books. Retailers ordering for these variants are going to pump up their numbers in order to match a perceived demand. More product is released to the market, and people aren’t so hard done by to find copies when the print run dries up. The problem is this: in search of a quick buck, there will be several retailers who over order. Some of them will even know better, but can’t help themselves. As a result, there will be copies of these titles that languish, unsold until they’re blown out the door at a loss – and if there’s two things you don’t want for your line of comics, it’s an attachment to the idea of “lost sales”. Why should a retailer order deep on future issues of Shutter or Bitch Planet if you have unsold copies? Wouldn’t it just be easier to order for files, and drink in the cash? Overstock always makes a retailer itchy, and an itchy retailer is going to react by cutting back on your book, either consciously or subconsciously. Either option is not good.

These variants should be offered like most Image variants – as an “order whatever you want”. The result will be a far more accurate representation of people who actually read the titles, and people who are checking it out due to the cover gimmick in question. Having more Wicked and Divine covers out there means that their fans have easier access to the covers they want – which might, in turn, make a collector of The Wicked + The Divine a reader of something else. That’s the goal. Readers over collectors. Long term gain over fast money. Honestly, this shouldn’t have to be said. But hey, let’s hear someone else say it.

Everybody moans about variants, but here’s the honest to goodness truth:

You stop ordering variants; we’ll stop making them.

They are only produced to shore up market share, that’s it and that’s all, and when used in conjunction with quantity-based incentives, they don’t sell more comics, they just result in stacks of unsold books that send the wrong message to your customers about the titles, your stores, and our industry.

That type of marketing is built on short-term sales goals that do little to grow and sustain readership, and it’s a trick that’s been done to death in other industries, to diminishing returns.

-Eric Stephenson at ComicsPro’s annual membership meeting, February 2014

The “you” he’s referring to is retailers. Honestly, I shouldn’t order these variants. I know better, and apparently Image knows better – or at least their publisher does.

That said, I’ve already placed my orders for them. They knew I was going to. That’s why they did it. We all know it’s a dumb idea, but no one can help themselves. And we wonder why the industry is plagued with short-term planning problems.

SHRINKING VARIANTS

Speaking of variants, Marvel just announced a brand new kind of variant that’s sure to give some collectors a really bad itching sensation just below the skin. Here’s the press release:

This January – the small hero with the big time heroics is ready for his shot in ANT-MAN #1, the new ongoing series from critically acclaimed creators Nick Spencer (Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Avengers World) and Ramon Rosanas (Night of the Living Deadpool). But first, Marvel is proud to present your first look at the exclusive ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant – available only in comic shops!

Ant Man 1 McGuinness Shrinking Variant b7462 TGI FOC: Degree of Variants

Kissy the face

From blockbuster artist Ed McGuinness – each ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant is completely unique. Individually numbered, each cover features Ant-Man at a different size – small, large and everything in between. Fans lucky enough to get their hands on this highly collectable variant cover will own a unique piece of history, as no two variants are alike!

“This is completely unlike any cover we’ve ever attempted,” says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “We’ve even had to utilize new technologies to make it happen. Each variant is completely unique. Each and every cover will feature a different sized Ant-Man. No two are identical!”

Scott Lang is ready to turn it all around in this brand new ongoing series. Sure he’s never been the world’s greatest super hero. Most people don’t even think he’s been the best Ant-Man – and the last guy created Ultron and joined the Masters of Evil, so that’s really saying something. But that’s all about to change. New city. New outlook. New Scott.

Be there for Scott Lang’s brand new day and don’t miss your chance to get your hands on this truly unique, one-of-a-kind variant before they’re gone for good! This time, nothing’s going to stop the astonishing Ant-Man! Be there when he returns to comic shops with the can’t miss ANT-MAN #1 Shrinking Variant comes exclusively to comic shops this January.

It’s a neat idea, one that would have been a good idea for the regular cover. Unfortunately, this isn’t for the main cover. If retailers want to get some copies of this special cover in the store, they’re going to have to exceed 150% of their orders for Hawkeye vs. Deadpool #1, a fact the press release neglects to mention. After all, why spoil a goodwill press release with the trials of actually obtaining the covers?

It will be interesting to see how demand goes for this variant, and what retailers will end up pricing them at. In my experience, “exceed XXX% and order whatever you want” variants don’t go for much more than cover price, so are hard to justify if you’re looking to cover the cost of unsold regular editions. I know I’m not going to try to order the variant – the math doesn’t work out even slightly – but regardless, I’m curious as to how this experiment will turn out.

INCOMING

The final order cut-off list has been a little crazy lately as printing deadlines start to jut up against each other during the mad rush to get things to the printer before things shut down for the holidays. Dark Horse started condensing their schedule last week, and Marvel has two weeks of product listed for this week, including the 7th and 8th issues of Axis. Ah, condensed shipping. You’re a special kind of hell.

A note: you might remember me talking about the Guardians of the Galaxy Annual in my first FOC column months ago. Well, after missing it’s original August shipping date by a mile, it’s reappeared on the FOC list for shipping on December 10th. Harsh, considering the fact that it would have been nice to have something that said Guardians of the Galaxy #1 on the shelves right after the movie hit, but when you hire Frank Cho to draw a thing, you kind of know what you’re getting. I mean, you’d almost have to at this point, wouldn’t you? Gorgeous art, horrendous deadline skills. Anyway, my orders dropped from chunky movie cross-promotion numbers, to something quite a bit smaller. Sure, I might get the odd Christmas sale from it, but I don’t expect what I could have gotten off that movie.

Otherwise, there’s nothing too exciting or noteworthy to really talk about on this week’s FOC. Marvel’s winding down their big event, and DC is holding their breath as they walk into Convergence.

BOOM HIT 001v1 A TGI FOC: Degree of Variants

That said, people who are enjoying The Fade Out should tell their comic shops to try and bring in the collection of Hit. It was a wonderful 50s noir series that Boom! Studios put out this year that featured a compelling story by Bryce Carlson and stunning art by Vanessa R. Del Ray – who will soon be working with Grant Morrison on a new book for Black Mask Comics.

TO BE CONTINUED…

That will wrap things up for this week. The Retailer’s View will return on Monday with my promised look at what retailers are looking for from Marvel’s big Secret Wars event this summer. In the meantime, you can head off and read my thoughts on DC’s Convergence series. Until next time…

14 Comments on TGI-FOC: Degree of Variants, last added: 11/18/2014
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4. Tomorrow: Publishers Weekly Webcast on how Comics are Finding New Audiences

pwwebcast Tomorrow: Publishers Weekly Webcast on how Comics are Finding New Audiences

Want to find more about how graphic novel publishers are approaching the massive changes in comics readership and marketing now underway?

 

Then fire up your computer tomorrow at 1 pm EST for a webcast with

Howard Shapiro, author, The Hockey Saint/Animal Media Group

Michael Martens, vp of business development , Dark Horse

Matt Parkinson, vp of marketing, Dark Horse

Leyla Aker, VP publsihing Viz Media

Ashlee Vaughn, Marketing, Viz Media

 

I’ll  be moderating this chat but you can submit questions yourself.  And with such a smart group, this is bound to be a fascinating hour at a crucial time in the comics industry.

The event is FREE to attend. FREE!!! Just go here and sign up.  And tell ‘em The Beat sent you.

 

 

 

1 Comments on Tomorrow: Publishers Weekly Webcast on how Comics are Finding New Audiences, last added: 11/13/2014
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5. Kaboom Test Labs: The case of the dissappearing comics shop

KTL SPLASH Img Kaboom Test Labs: The case of the dissappearing comics shop

We’ve been talking about how the comics industry is doing well, and people seem to be making good on their business plans. But there are still cautionary tales. One such tale is Kaboom Test Labs, a two store chain located in Albuquerque, NM that abruptly closed shop this weekend. The main site has only a note that the owners were leaving New Mexico; a Facebook page where disappointed customers wondered what happened has been removed.

It’s all pretty mysterious, as the tipster who alerted me to this noted that the store was well liked, had a diverse staff and was building a good community, as a remaining FB page for other activities shows. Also the store had just about the best name ever.

Even stranger, the shop had just been the focus of a very positive story in the local news that made it sound like one of the good ones.

I emailed the owner but received no response. However digging around shows some financial difficulties in the recent past, enough to make shutting up shop and moving on a viable alternative.

Alas, sometimes all the good ideas in the world aren’t enough. Albuquerque is a tough economy, and opening a retail store is always a mix of planning and luck. We wish all those involved the best in getting things sorted out and hope that comics shoppers in Albuquerque can find another store to their liking.

1 Comments on Kaboom Test Labs: The case of the dissappearing comics shop, last added: 11/11/2014
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6. Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry

Jeff Smith rocket raccoon Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry

Out with the old, in with the new? As we’ve been reporting, October comics sales were pretty damn massive. It’s the culmination of a year that started a little rocky but has blossomed as new trends blew into town behind a strong trade wind. Multiversity’s David Harper has the much needed big think piece on what’s happening complete with CHARTS. First he points out that The Big Two are still the big two:

Before we get into the bad, let’s look at the good. Marvel and DC continue to be the backbone of the industry. In October, the pair combined to account for over 67% of units shipped by Diamond, and they are and will continue to be the 800-pound gorillas that comics are mostly known for. Some often wish they would just go away, but they aren’t just necessary, they’re the absolute foundation of the livelihood of comics. With them gone, it would likely be difficult to impossible for the books you love to succeed or even exist.

What do I mean by that? Well, it’s pretty simple. In an industry that’s worth $50 million on average, DC and Marvel account for two thirds of that revenue. Without them, comic shops would have a hard time making enough money to survive. Without Marvel and DC, print comics would likely die just like the doomsayers are always saying they’re about to. In that way, Marvel and DC’s success is tantamount to the health of the industry, and we’ve seen them reach enormous heights in recent years.

BUT events, the backbone of the last 10 years of Big Two sales, are definitely losing their punch. Harper has charts that will show it all but here’s one stat on first issue sales:

House of M #: 233, 721 (2005)

Axis #1: 138,966 (2014)

At DC, events and weeklies are showing similar sales erosion.

But they sure do love their weeklies (or bi-weeklies, in the case of “Brightest Day”), and with three running right now, DC is seeing lower and lower sales on their debuts with each passing launch. The latest, “Earth 2: World’s End”, opened at a mediocre #57 with about 55% lower sales than “Batman Eternal” started with earlier this year. Anecdotal evidence from retailers have indicated that these books have sold less and less as their runs have went along, and it’s quite likely that DC’s huge bet on weeklies isn’t hitting the levels they were aiming for.

It has taken all my self control not to post those charts (PLEASE GO TO LINK) but I can’t resist this one, which I’ve meant to do when I had a spare moment myself: a chart showing Image’s market share growth from 4% in 2009 to its current 12%:

timthumb Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry
That is some chart. Harper writes:

The chart you see above is Image’s growth in both unit share and in dollar share of the marketplace over the past five years. Between January 2009 and October 2014, Image’s unit share in the marketplace has more than quadrupled. And that’s not even an apples to apples comparison, as industry revenues have skyrocketed during that time, moving from $31.31 million in January 2009 to $56.09 million this month. That means Image is taking a bigger slice of a much bigger pie.

Now, this month their 12.28% number is a bit inorganically boosted – as I said before, “The Walking Dead” #132 was featured in October’s Loot Crate, and issue #133 (also in October) sold nearly 80% less without the Loot Crate bump – but that’s still a very impressive number that speaks to how effectively they’ve grown. It’s not even how big they’ve gotten that impresses me the most, though. It’s their Terminator like relentlessness in growing their market share. This wasn’t an overnight thing, but a steady progression.

But what else are those trade winds blowing in? Marvel and DC are betting their 2015 on Secret Wars and Convergence (although the latter is, to be fair, a stop gap.) Meanwhile, the usual poster children—Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye, Harley Quinn and not Batgirl and Gotham Academy—are finding a strong audience. And others have trimmed their sails (while boosting sales) as well:

Meanwhile, other publishers are embracing change more than ever. Boom! and Dynamite are putting together effective impersonations of Image’s creator-owned direction. Dark Horse is launching a bevy of awesome looking new titles from creators like Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Mike Mignola, and more. Archie has, against all odds, become a bastion of innovative and forward thinking storytelling. Valiant is attempting to bridge the gap between Marvel and DC’s universe building and Image’s creator friendly nature.

Harper leaves his analysis with a comparison to Motorola: a once dominant player that fell off the charts when they stuck with their tried and true business plan—small communication devices—while the world tacked to smart phones. About 14 years ago I gave a speech about the same thing at an industry gathering, but the telex machine was my metaphor: even pre internet, the telex machine had been done in by the fax machine, and tried to adapt by allowing you to send faxes from a telex. It didn’t work. The comics industry was in grave danger of sticking with a dying model back in 2000 when I delivered this speech.

Now, I don’t think Marvel and Dc are going to go way of the telex machine, or even Motorola—which is still around but in diminished capacity. Not with those 40 movies on the schedule. But…things have finally changed: I will allow myself one more theft as I construct my unified sales theory: Here’s the top 30 books from October, via ICv2:

TOP 300 COMICS – October 2014
Rank Index Title Price Pub Est.Qty
1 274.55 WALKING DEAD #132 (MR) $2.99 IMA  326,334
2 139.31 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #4 $4.99 MAR  165,582
3 126.92 THOR #1 $3.99 MAR  150,862
4 119.10 DEATH OF WOLVERINE #3 $4.99 MAR  141,567
5 116.92 AVENGERS AND X-MEN AXIS #1 $4.99 MAR  138,966
6 100.00 BATMAN #35 $4.99 DC  118,860
7 97.64 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #7 $3.99 MAR  116,051
8 83.75 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 $3.99 MAR    99,549
9 81.87 HARLEY QUINN ANNUAL #1 $5.99 DC    97,312
10 74.01 AVENGERS AND X-MEN AXIS #2 $3.99 MAR    87,964
11 71.27 AVENGERS AND X-MEN AXIS #3 $3.99 MAR    84,708
12 63.44 JUSTICE LEAGUE #35 $3.99 DC    75,400
13 63.32 JUSTICE LEAGUE #34 $3.99 DC    75,264
14 62.41 CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 $4.99 MAR    74,183
15 60.18 DEATH OF WOLVERINE LOGAN LEGACY #1 $3.99 MAR    71,532
16 58.52 WALKING DEAD #133 (MR) $2.99 IMA    69,561
17 57.68 HARLEY QUINN #11 $2.99 DC    68,557
18 57.21 WYTCHES #1 (MR) [*] $2.99 IMA    67,996
19 52.70 BATGIRL #35 $2.99 DC    62,644
20 51.38 GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #20 $3.99 MAR    61,072
21 50.51 ALL NEW X-MEN #33 $3.99 MAR    60,032
22 49.28 GUARDIANS 3000 #1 $3.99 MAR    58,574
23 48.72 UNCANNY X-MEN #27 $3.99 MAR    57,908
24 48.65 ROCKET RACCOON #4 $3.99 MAR    57,830
25 48.28 DETECTIVE COMICS #35 $3.99 DC    57,385
26 47.76 AVENGERS #36 $3.99 MAR    56,771
27 46.72 SAGA #24 (MR) $2.99 IMA    55,534
28 45.95 BATMAN AND ROBIN #35 $2.99 DC    54,616
29 45.60 BATMAN ETERNAL #26 $2.99 DC    54,199
30 45.48 DEATHSTROKE #1 $2.99 DC    54,059

Setting aside the freakish Loot Crate numbers of The Walking Dead, this is not the chart you ever expected to see in the biggest sales month ever, with the Harley Quinn annual selling ealy 100,000 copies, Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches debuting at #18, and the new, Doc Marten’d Batgirl at #19. More teling to me—Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon is still selling 57,000 copies at issues #4. That is not a flash in the pan (Although I will wait for Jason’s monthly analysis for any variable I don’t know of.) The graphic novel chart for October shows a similar lemony fresh scent: the top five are two Batman Books, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye and Jonathan Hickman’s East of West. Even Paul Pope’s Aurora West made the top 20.

This is the new thing. I doubt that Marvel and DC’s reliance on events will go away, and I similarly doubt that they will cause the Big Two’s fleet to founder in shallow waters. It’s all ADDITIVE. While events are hard to order and offer diminishing returns, they still create a foundation for hundreds of stores.

The point is we finally have something of a healthy diversity in comics. The last time this happened was, ironically, in the switch over from the newsstand to the comics shops. Mainstream comics were experimenting with all kinds of wacky stuff in the late 70s, from Howard the Duck (a big hit in its day) to Jim Starlin. As he “direct sales market” arose, even Fantagraphics titles would sell 50,000 copies a month. Love and Rocket once sold what Rocket Raccoon does now. It only took us 30 years. And where we go from here?

Where we’re going there are no charts. But it looks like clear sailing for days and months to come.

9 Comments on Must read: David Harper analyzes the changing state of the industry, last added: 11/14/2014
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7. The Retailer’s View: A Confluence of Events (Part One)

2014 is swiftly drawing to a close. In the midst of making sure my shelves will weather the upcoming Christmas season, I’ll be placing my final orders for the last dribs and drabs of product that will grace the new comic book shelves through to the end of this year. Most of the year’s events have drawn to a close, save Spider-Verse and Axis which sees Marvel through this quarter of the year. Two weeks ago, I made the mistake of thinking that I would have time to relax before having to stress about the next incoming ordering monstrosity.

I should really know better at this point.

ConvergencePromo 1200 545ac8e14697f7.11375445 1000x540 The Retailers View: A Confluence of Events (Part One)

Oh, honeycomb, won’t you be my baby, well, honeycomb, be my own.

Acknowledging that moving cross country and restaffing an editorial department might be distracting for its staff, DC officially announced it’s two month fill-in event today, CONVERGENCE. The event will replace the New 52 line-up for two months, April and May of 2015, with a framing 9-issue mini-series, starting with a zero issue, and spinning into 40 two part mini series.

--from The Beat’s coverage of Convergence.

 

Which is to say, at some point over the past year, DC decided to marry the twin hells of ordering weekly comics and scuttling their entire regularly scheduled ongoings for a month or two in a bid to drive me to an early grave. Or they took a look at what their production schedule would look like with an upcoming move across country and thought they might want to alleviate the stress on their staff. I honestly prefer the version where it’s somehow all about me, because I write diatribes on the internet and I am very hard done by.

Elsewhere, Marvel had been releasing several teaser images displaying interesting takes on previously ran stories, all with the promise of something big in the summer of 2015. As we found out on Friday, this was all in service of their upcoming return to Secret Wars. While details are still pretty vague on the Marvel front, they seem to be pushing an angle that would see their line drastically altered while all of this plays out, promising sweeping crossovers not only in their comic book line, but various forms of other media. What this means has yet to be seen, but in my nightmares, I picture a world burning as I try to punch in numbers for several reality-shifted titles for several months.

Admittedly, these are early days, and what we know about both events amounts to very little. While DC has been very specific about formats, they’re playing fast and loose with concepts. Marvel, on the other hand, has provided a bunch of concepts, but no shape or format. Attempting to parse a plan of attack for either at this point would be something akin to a group of blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looks like, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to go over some best case scenarios and build the shape that I’d like the events to take from a retail standpoint over the span of two articles (because you guys – there’s a lot to talk about). Some of this might be a little dry (and ultimately pointless in the face of decisions that have already been made), but providing a guide to what retailers are looking for in events such as these can’t hurt.

CONVERGENCE

Of the two, Convergence is being built as a necessity, more than something extravagant. Even if the concept was born out of creative decisions, the execution is all business, marrying the need for DC to pump out enough books to fill out their budgets while simultaneously alleviating editorial and creative pressures during the big move. As such, it’s already on the back foot, appearing as though it’s a fill-in event, something that is decidedly not their main line of books in any way, shape or form. If they don’t tackle this perception in the marketing, April and May might be a couple of DC’s worst months as many opt out of the two months of content.

One of the things the company should have done right off the bat, is get a name to help out with the main series. While I’m sure the new-to-comics writer Jeff King is a remarkable talent, if I walk up to my customers and tell them who is operating at the core of this event, I will inevitably be met with a “who?” from most parties. The inclusion of Dan Jurgens and Scott Lobdell as event consultants does offer a bit of name recognition, but not the kind that’s going to sell books. Again, talented as they may be, I haven’t been able to get those writers to move the dial up on any books that I’m selling, and when you are building two months worth of content, you need to be able to attach an element of interest to the creative, even if the creator in question is only consulting and helps bang out plot points.

eternalbatman 450x685 The Retailers View: A Confluence of Events (Part One)

An illustration of this point can be found in the sales of DC’s three weekly titles. Batman: Eternal is scripted by a rotating team of solid writers with superstar Batman writer Scott Snyder providing some plot work, sharing the workload with James Tynion IV. That book sells like gangbusters. Meanwhile, New 52: Future’s End launched with a free first issue, and a cracker jack creative team attached, but nobody who pushes into the stratosphere. The weekly Earth Two book is operating under similar conditions, and was sold as a sister title to the main Earth Two book. There is almost no reason for someone who isn’t already following Earth Two to follow the weekly, and my sales are definitely reflecting that. Had their been a more recognizable writer at the core, and had the marketing been something a bit deeper than do you like Earth Two, things would be quite different.

Jeff King should be paired with someone like… say, Warren Ellis. Or Grant Morrison. Or – dipping into the impossible for a second – Alan Moore. If this event has really been long in the planning, hiring a “get” to even just sit quietly in the corner of one or two Skype meetings in order to give more of a push would do wonders for the core – and if the core is strong, the books spinning outward will be all the better for it.

Going out from there, the announced slate of 40 two-part minis can and should be entirely self sustaining. DC should take great pains to let people know that there is zero knowledge required to check out both the main Convergence series and the minis that surround it. That’s how I’m going to sell things. While I know that Convergence is spinning out from the events of Superman: Doomed, Future’s End and Earth Two: World’s End, I’d never place that baggage on the event, unless it is earned. If DC puts out a product that pulls to heavily on prior knowledge, I might as well gather up almost every copy I’ve ordered of Convergence and set fire to it to keep warm. Nobody likes feeling like they don’t know what’s going on, and while it’s easy to wave a hand dismissively and say “they can catch up”, that’s a sure fire way to nab some pretty anemic sales. With so many entertainment options out there, both within the industry and without, “complication” is not a selling point, it’s a reason to jump ship. The less connective tissue the better.

As for the content of the two-part minis, DC should definitely be using the two months as an opportunity to truly get creative. If I had my druthers, about 25% of the books would feature regular creative teams being let loose. Let folks like Scott Snyder and Brian Azzarello and Jeff Lemire and Gail Simone loose on your multiverse with a license to say or do anything. The other books? Run completely wild with surprising concepts and creators. Run it like Marvel’s recent Edge of Spider-Verse mini-series, handing out a framework and stepping back to see what unfurls. Becky Cloonan, Brandon Fletcher and Camerson Stewart have already proven they can spark some interest, let them all punch through two issues of something unique. Dig around near and far, and grab from all walks. Would Los Bros Hernadez be interested in something? How about folks like Rick Spears or Ales Kot? What about Bryan Lee O’Malley? Turn off the house style, and really make the month interesting. Get new readers coming to your line, instead of producing the same old, same old. Business as usual combined with a glorified fill-in event will only lead to disinterest, and I can guarantee the company isn’t expecting much from this line of books, so my not take a few massive risks? Who in their right mind would blame you given the fact that you’re moving across country while it’s happening?

Now, launching out from there, regardless of what the company attempts in the two months, the line should look quite different. Keep what’s been working, and otherwise, shake up the line. If this is done in tandem with an interest line-up of books during Convergance, the company will be able to drum up some vague interest, and capitalize on it completely when they double down and per some of the strange infiltrate their line.

Whatever happens, I can guarantee sales will give a fairly accurate representation for the amount of hustle the company is putting into producing the line. It will all be about perception, as retailers are going to be naturally wary of a line that doesn’t include Batman, the book by which all sales are literally measured.

TO BE CONTINUED…

On Wednesday, I’ll tackle what is known about Secret Wars, and how Marvel could potentially structure it to get the biggest bang for their buck. Until then, please comment with your thoughts below. I’m contemplating running this as a three parter, ending with your input on Friday, but that’s really up to you folks.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

4 Comments on The Retailer’s View: A Confluence of Events (Part One), last added: 11/11/2014
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8. The Retailer’s View // Scheduling Issues

Navigating monthly orders is a bone-numbing pain. I feel as though this is something I write a variation of in most of these columns. The sensation clearly remains. It’s a thankless process that rarely ends happily, with hundreds of order codes to run through and thousands of bits of data to think of. In the end, you will always mess up on several orders. You’ll discover this months down the line when you’re staring at empty shelf slots a couple hours into new comic book day or a section choked with product on the following Tuesday. At best, you can use your knowledge to mitigate any huge losses, and come out winning more often than you lose – but you’ll still lose, and you’ll still lose often.

How’s that for a cold open?

When I was going through last month’s Previews, I ran straight into the listing for Eric Stephenson and Simon Gane’s They’re Not Like Us and immediately took the internet to drop some misspelled opinions. I had been looking over the solicitation for a month at that point, and had been wondering what I was going to do when the time came to punch in some numbers. Over the course of the month, I waited for an interview to pop up regarding the book so that I’d have a little bit more to go on than what was in the solicitation. Nothing was forthcoming, so as I stared at the listing, I went through the contents of my gut to see what it thought.

I knew that the series would be good – or at least, would be a book that would appeal to me. I was familiar with Stephenson’s work through Nowhere Men and Long Hot Summer and was a fan. Gane, I knew from projects like The Vinyl Underground and Paris, and knew him to be an amazing draftsman. There was preview art and a cover that boasted contributions from the amazing Jordie Bellaire and Fonografiks with the promise that both would be a part of the series. These were all things that filled me with confidence in my ability to move this book, and gave me a vague idea as to the audience that I would be aiming for with it. I was also clearly worried about the book’s schedule, and how it would effect the sales and interest in the series.

As much as I liked (and like) Stephenson as a writer, my internal notes were telling me that this was a series that probably wouldn’t ship on time. I was basing this purely on the track record of his most recent series, Nowhere Men, which started off with a strong opening (both critically and sales-wise) before petering off into obscurity as the book slid further and further off schedule. By the time the sixth issue shipped, my sales were but a fraction of what I had started with for all of the usual reasons. Some took the waiting period as a sign that they should give up on the singles and wait for the collections. Others forgot about the book’s existence and plot and decided to leave it on the shelf when it finally arrived. Still more pulled it out of their budgeting calculations as other books moved in to fill the gap. The result had clearly left a bad taste in my mouth, one that led to my ordering dilemma.

theyrenotlikeus 01 The Retailers View // Scheduling Issues

Now I should note, shortly after sending the tweet out into the wild, I was greeted with a chorus that pointed to a google document Nowhere Men artist Nate Bellegarde had posted claiming full responsibility for the delays. I had not seen this, and plugging around the comics internet digs up very few news sites that actually linked to the information. This is unfortunately the fate of late books – no matter the reason (and Nate in particular had and has some very good reasons for the book’s disappearance), lateness results in disinterest, and disinterest results in lower sales. This, of course, translates to a hesitance on the part of a retailer in ordering a creator’s new books, which brings us back to the main point.

Armed with some incomplete information, I was ready to place an order far lower than I normally would for a book I think people are going to enjoy. The reverberating effects of this notion are quite wide-ranging. For example, I’m a guy who regularly checks comic book news sites, and has built up a network of folks who are ready to hand me some extra information should the situation require it. I’m not the norm when it comes to retailing. Others are just going to go on the information they have at hand – the concept, the names of the creators, and their past performance in store. More still won’t even order based on that – they’ll just plug in a token “Image number” brush their hands off, and call it a day without a second thought.

Going out from there, you’ll have readers who are similarly minded, who will see Eric Stephenson’s name, and assume that this title will be late before it’s even had a chance to prove itself. While many of you reading this article are the type to keep up on this kind of information, the majority of people buying comics at comic shops are very passive in their extracurricular consumption, opting to just read the comics as they come in without dipping their toes into the minutiae of it all. Most of these people will be getting information about this series from aforementioned retailers who don’t have a view of the bigger picture, and this might honestly result in middling sales for the series – at least to start. If memory serves, Nowhere Men was a series that was severely under ordered, and the quality of it pushed it through several printings of almost every single issue. This could very well be the case for They’re Not Like Us, and it could have quite healthy sales through to the end of its run, which would be nice – but regardless, damage will be done. People will go into shops and come up short – and while we’re living in a wonderful age where you’d be able to go to Image directly and nab a DRM-free digital copy, sales will still be lost in the transition – and that’s a problem. Hopefully, in this case, a very small one.

A regular schedule is key in terms of the success of a series, and of a creator. The comic market is littered with the corpses of books that launched strong, but flagged as delays hit. While some launch strong enough to weather the storm through to the end, nearly all of them proceed with a smaller audience. If the delays persist, the numbers will continue to shed at an accelerated rate along side of it, resulting in a monetary lesser for all those involved. Take a look at any sales chart, and find any book that has hit a patch of delays, and you will inevitably see the pattern. While there are some exceptions (there always are) the vast majority of books shipping on a delayed schedule lose readers at an equal pace. Books that don’t ship don’t fit into a store or a reader’s budget as well as books that show up as promised. Moreso, books that don’t ship stop being part of the conversation. Less is said about the story and more about the delays, until that becomes the story. People become okay with waiting, and so they do. Waiting breeds forgetfulness, and forgetfulness breeds death. The cycle continues, on and on.

If you’re in the business of producing comics, the most important thing you can do is hit your deadlines. Even a bi-monthly schedule is better than a promised monthly that doesn’t ship. The ideal, I think, is the <em>Saga</em> model, wherein you ship an arc on a monthly basis, delivering on the due date as promised on time, every time. In between the arcs, you can take a break. Let readers stew with a cliffhanger, and release your trade so stragglers can catch up. Offer retailers the chance to breath, sell a trade, and build up your audience. Come back guns blazing with another arc that comes out consistently. Because while delays within a story arc will kill you, delays between arcs will not. People are trained to deal with these gaps. Most serial media consumed thrives on gaps building pressure and audience in the interim. That’s the reason why sequels are a better bet to make money than a movie’s initial release. Come out with a good product, give the people an experience that has them clawing for more, and then let them wait. Let them stew. Time things right, and you can keep getting bigger and bigger. Start screwing up with your deadlines, and you’ll start to see that intensity and momentum dry up and fall away.

candycrushsaga The Retailers View // Scheduling Issues

Almost definitely what I’m talking about right now.

As the publisher of Image Comics, I’m sure Eric Stephenson already knows all of this information. He has enough sales data at his finger tips to know how delays effect a book, and how the model Saga has been running on is the ideal. It’s the way Jim Zub has been running things with Skullkickers from the start of his run, and each time his book has come back, sales have gotten stronger and stronger. It’s the way Antony Johnston has started running Umbral and The Fuse, and while I think it’s a little too early to say much about what those books are doing as a whole, I can say that the schedule has done well for his books in my store particularly. It’s a smart way to run a series, and honestly, I think it should be adopted by the industry in general. I honestly believe that instead of shipping books like Batman and Amazing Spider-Man on a never ending schedule, building in tangible breaks can do wonders. I worked a version of this when DC decided to soft launch a few of their books this October after building in a glorified skip-month in September. The results? I’ve sold twice the amount of Catwoman and three times the amount of Batgirl than what I did in August. Green Arrow admittedly stayed the same, but considering the fact that the title was coming off a run that was so indelibly tied to the previous creative team more than the character (at least in my shop), that’s not a small feat, as loss roughly equalled gain. In that particular case, DC would have done better pushing a publication gap for a couple of months before a big return. Sure, they would have missed timing the launch with the return of the Arrow television show, but in the end, the title would have been all the better for it.

Consistent shipping will do almost as much for a book as its perceived quality will. While a quality book can get by with delays, the results will almost always be lesser for it – at least in terms of periodical sales. For a perceived mediocre book, delays will result in death. Readers will stick with something if it comes out regularly, and they’ll stick around even longer if you can hit that final note and give them something to ponder over a break – but give them the slightest excuse to walk away, and they will, even if it’s a book they enjoy. Retailers, for their part, will always react to this, and they’ll carry a perception around as a result. They’re Not Like Us is a series that’s going to have perception working against it from the start, even though the creators have yet to do anything to truly earn that. It’s unfortunate, but in a business where the people ordering books are sifting through information for over 2500 listings a month, it is what it is.

Hit your marks. You’ll be glad you did.

3 Comments on The Retailer’s View // Scheduling Issues, last added: 11/4/2014
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9. The Valkyries: secret warrior women of comics shops

tumblr ndidos5yh71sdg28uo5 500 The Valkyries: secret warrior women of comics shops

There was a time not too long ago when you could fit all the “women in comics” at a big table in a coffee shop. Now there are more than 300 women who work in comics shops ALONE. That’s the membership of The Valkyries, a private organization for female comics retail employees. And it turns out the group has been instrumental in promoting a couple of books that have had great success this year, namely Saga and Lumberjanes. Janelle Asselin interviews group founder Kate Leth for all the details:

CA: One thing I think people don’t necessarily understand about the Valkyries is that it goes beyond a support network – you actually have an effect on the way shops are run and the ultimate consumer experience. I know that there are a few books the group has specifically supported – can you tell me about what you do when you think a book needs your advocacy?

KL: Sometimes it’s that a book might need our support, and other times it’s just titles we love. Our first “campaign” was for the Lying Cat t-shirts, from Saga. It happened really organically, because we all realized we had pre-ordered them, and so we decided to wear them on the same day and post photos. It became a way to show the comics world who we were, and what we were about – supporting the titles and creators we love. Saga doesn’t need our help, god knows, but we wanted to make a statement on how much we appreciate such an amazing title with a female artist and great, diverse female characters.

When we did Lumberday (we all wore plaid and tweeted photos for Lumberjanes) that was more of a push. The book is indie, and creator-owned, and we wanted people to check it out. That book was extra-special to the Valkyries because of the all-female cast not only in the book, but making it. We all bought those Batgirl boots, too. We wanted to show how excited we were that DC was taking note of and tailoring a title to their younger female audience. Also, those boots rule.

As suggested, Saga doesn’t exactly need a ton of support, but Lumberjanes has been a genuine sensation this year, and is now Boom!’s best selling non-licensed title, with more than 10K copies per issue sold.

There have been a few other retailer organizations that worked directly with creators to promote their work, but several have dwindled. (ComicsPRO remains strong, of course, but it seems to work directly with publishers most of the time.) The Valkyries seems set up to be a fantastic retail asset:

CA: Do you work with creators at all – beyond the breakfasts and general book-selling – in your work as Valkyries? Like, do you ever give creators advice or receive information from them to promote books?
KL: Yeah, we have! We do get advance copies and promos from time to time. We actually have a girl in the group now who manages all of the previews and promotes them when we get them. We’ve had some creators run things by the Valkyries for feedback, which is really, really cool.
CA: If a creator wanted to do that, how would they go about contacting the group?
KL: Send an email to bewarethevalkyries@gmail.com! We’re always on the lookout for things that are lady-friendly, all-ages, and/or feature things like LGBTQ+ and POC representation.

You can learn more about The Valkyries at their tumblr.

2 Comments on The Valkyries: secret warrior women of comics shops, last added: 10/29/2014
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10. ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

While most comics fans started New York Comic Con on Thursday, the die-hard industry insiders and watchers began their “con crush” on Wednesday. ICV2.com once again hosted their annual conference at the Javits Center, choosing the theme: The New Comics Customer.

As is the tradition, each conference is inaugurated with an industry white paper. Milton Griepp, CEO of ICV2, collates a huge chunk of industry data and translates those numbers into words and pictures.

The following are my photos from the presentation, along with my commentary.
This website was a sponsor of the conference, and Heidi MacDonald was gracious to comp me a pass, although I’ve paid to attend all of the previous ICV2 conferences in the past.


 

2014 10 08 13.06.15 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

If you want to know what goes on in comics retailing, you should visit this site! ICV2.com! (Home of the Top 300!)

2014 10 08 13.07.04 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?

OOOooohhhh…. How much? Who many? When? Which? Why? Classic questions that have bedeviled mankind ever since they started telling stories by painting comics on cave walls!

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Note that newsstand sales account for $25 Million. Also, that in comics shops, comic books outsell graphic novels 2:1 in dollars.

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Oooh… almost a constant slope on the current trend! Will we hit One. Million. Dollars. by 2015?  2014?

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Note that the decrease in manga brings the total down. But 2% fewer titles than last year? Hmm…

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What are the trends for the current year?

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…and the invisible categories: libraries and book fairs?

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(See that elephant over there? The one that says:
*the male:female ratio of readers skews female.
*women read more books than men
*80% of fiction is read by women)

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(To which the elephant pipes up and mentions that most book clubs and book blogs are run by women.)

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Books and merchandise.

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2014 10 08 13.41.13 1000x750 ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?…and then time taken for a few questions.

8 Comments on ICV2 2014 Conference: White Paper: The Comics Customer: Who Is Reading All Those Comics?, last added: 10/20/2014
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11. Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king

Saga01 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king

It’s been a while (5 years)  since we looked at Diamond’s monthly backlist chart, and now, as then, it reveals a VERY DIFFERENT ranking for publishers. In the backlist, DC is king by a wide margin, with about 30% of the market. Marvel is only a tich above Image in units, while Image books dominate the top ten with Saga, Walking Dead, and Sex Criminals. On the manga side, Attack on Titan rules, no surprise given the way it’s single handedly revitalized the category.

Backlist charts reflect perennial graphic novel sellers that sell out over time rather than the more volatile monthly periodicals. It’s also a source of steady income for publishers; once you get ahit on the backlist you just sit back and fill order.

Marvel actually charts with a bunch of Deadpool books, and DC has fewer tites, mostly Batman. Why the discrepancy? While I’ll have to investigate the chart more fully in months to come, its no secret that DC has the most well developed backlist of any publisher. Although they aren’t showing up in this particular chart, I’d guess that classics like Watchmen, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and the ongoing New 52 program is doing very well. They are much more focused on this particular channel.

It’s interesting to see Marvel books here given all their well documented problems keeping books in print. Thanks to Diamond for permission to reprint this information.

 


SEPTEMBER 2014 BACKLIST MARKET SHARES

Vendor

Dollar Share

 

Vendor

Unit Share

DC COMICS

30.51%

DC COMICS

29.76%

MARVEL COMICS

19.02%

MARVEL COMICS

17.40%

IMAGE COMICS

10.98%

IMAGE COMICS

15.28%

DARK HORSE COMICS

10.71%

DARK HORSE COMICS

10.58%

IDW PUBLISHING

4.35%

VIZ LLC

3.72%

RANDOM HOUSE

3.27%

IDW PUBLISHING

3.38%

VIZ LLC

2.55%

RANDOM HOUSE

3.34%

FUNKO

1.50%

FUNKO

1.93%

BOOM ENTERTAINMENT

1.42%

BOOM ENTERTAINMENT

1.67%

DIAMOND SELECT TOYS LLC

1.28%

ARCHIE COMIC PUBLICATIONS

1.17%

OTHER

14.43%

OTHER

11.77%

TOTAL

0.94%

TOTAL

100.00%

Image?pd=newsimages&pf=154388 642605 4 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king Image?pd=newsimages&pf=154388 642606 5 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king
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SEPTEMBER 2014
 BACKLIST TOP SELLERS

TOP 25 GRAPHIC NOVELS & TRADE PAPERBACKS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG120491D

SAGA TP VOL 01 (MR)

$9.99

IMA

2

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140556D

SAGA TP VOL 03 (MR)

$14.99

IMA

3

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR130443D

SAGA TP VOL 02 (MR)

$14.99

IMA

4

15

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140558D

SEX CRIMINALS TP VOL 01 (MR)

$9.99

IMA

5

7

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV128157D

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 01 DAYS GONE BYE

$14.99

IMA

6

8

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR130727D

DEADPOOL TP VOL 01 DEAD PRESIDENTS NOW

$15.99

MAR

7

34

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN130466D

EAST OF WEST TP VOL 01 THE PROMISE

$9.99

IMA

8

14

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140652D

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 21 ALL OUT WAR PT 2 (MR)

$14.99

IMA

9

13

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC120323D

BATMAN TP VOL 01 THE COURT OF OWLS (N52)

$16.99

DC

10

12

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV070226D

BATMAN THE KILLING JOKE SPECIAL ED HC

$17.99

DC

11

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR140949F

BRYAN LEE O MALLEY SECONDS GN (C: 1-1-0)

$25.00

RAN

12

43

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140626D

DEADLY CLASS TP VOL 01 REAGAN YOUTH (MR)

$9.99

IMA

13

17

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL130235D

BATMAN TP VOL 02 THE CITY OF OWLS (N52)

$16.99

DC

14

49

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140555D

RAT QUEENS TP VOL 01 SASS & SORCERY (MR)

$9.99

IMA

15

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR130732D

DEADPOOL BY DANIEL WAY COMPLETE COLL TP VOL 01

$34.99

MAR

16

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV118095D

BATMAN DARK KNIGHT RETURNS TP

$19.99

DC

17

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL110745D

INFINITY GAUNTLET TP

$24.99

MAR

18

11

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY090178D

BATMAN HUSH COMPLETE TP

$24.99

DC

19

27

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG120709D

DEADPOOL KILLS MARVEL UNIVERSE TP

$14.99

MAR

20

57

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR140535D

BLACK SCIENCE TP VOL 01 HOW TO FALL FOREVER (MR)

$9.99

IMA

21

29

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP088204D

WALKING DEAD TP VOL 02 MILES BEHIND US (NEW PTG)

$14.99

IMA

22

24

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB140248D

BATMAN TP VOL 03 DEATH OF THE FAMILY (N52)

$16.99

DC

23

35

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL100030V

SERENITY SHEPHERDS TALE HC (C: 0-1-2)

$14.99

DAR

24

36

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC130494D

EAST OF WEST TP VOL 02 WE ARE ALL ONE

$14.99

IMA

25

22

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP110038V

SERENITY HC VOL 01 THOSE LEFT BEHIND 2ND ED

$17.99

DAR

TOP 10 MANGA

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR121101F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 01 (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

2

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN121182F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 02 (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

3

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV101063E

DEATH NOTE BLACK ED TP VOL 01 (C: 1-0-1)

$14.99

VIZ

4

8

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP131224F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 09 (C: 1-1-1)

$10.99

RAN

5

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL111150F

SAILOR MOON TP KODANSHA ED VOL 01 (C: 0-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

6

11

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN141232F

ATTACK ON TITAN BEFORE THE FALL GN VOL 01 (C: 1-0-0)

$10.99

RAN

7

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG131498E

UZUMAKI 3IN1 DLX ED HC (C: 1-0-1)

$27.99

VIZ

8

13

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP121137F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 03 (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

RAN

9

14

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141262F

ATTACK ON TITAN NO REGRETS GN VOL 01 (C: 1-0-0)

$10.99

RAN

10

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB141327F

ATTACK ON TITAN GN VOL 12 (C: 1-1-0)

$10.99

RAN

TOP 10 BOOKS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141239E

OVERSTREET COMIC BK PG SC VOL 44 BATMAN CVR

$29.95

GEM

2

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP120055V

LEGEND OF ZELDA HYRULE HISTORIA HC (C: 1-1-2)

$34.99

DAR

3

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC131413F

MARVEL ENCYCLOPEDIA HC 75TH ANNIV ED (C: 0-1-0)

$40.00

DK

4

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141240E

OVERSTREET COMIC BK PG HC VOL 44 BATMAN

$35.00

GEM

5

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY131402F

ADVENTURE TIME ENCYCLOPEDIA HC

$19.95

ABR

6

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR140463J

MIKE MIGNOLA HELLBOY ARTIST ED (NET)

$95.00

IDW

7

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB121318H

DARTH VADER AND SON HC (C: 0-1-1)

$14.95

CHR

8

20

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY131497F

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE STAR WARS HC (C: 0-1-1)

$14.95

RAN

9

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR141241E

OVERSTREET COMIC BK PG SC VOL 44 VAMPIRELLA CVR

$29.95

GEM

10

21

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY141838F

GOODNIGHT DARTH VADER HC (C: 0-1-0)

$14.95

CHR

TOP 10 TOYS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingOCT120316Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 SUPERMAN ACTION FIGURE

$24.95

DC

2

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP130327Y

DC COMICS SUPER VILLAINS HARLEY QUINN AF

$24.95

DC

3

8

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB140306Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 RED HOOD AF

$24.95

DC

4

25

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN132334I

POP TMNT MICHELANGELO VINYL FIG (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

FUN

5

27

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN132333I

POP TMNT DONATELLO VINYL FIG (C: 1-1-2)

$10.99

FUN

6

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB140307Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 STARFIRE AF

$24.95

DC

7

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV138235Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 JUSTICE LEAGUE 7 PACK AF BOX SET

$99.95

DC

8

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingFEB108045U

DOCTOR WHO 11TH DOCTOR SONIC SCREWDRIVER (C: 1-1-3)

$34.99

UND

9

7

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN140403Y

DC COMICS SUPER VILLAINS ARMORED LEX LUTHOR DLX AF

$49.95

DC

10

18

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL128115Y

DC COMICS NEW 52 BATMAN ACTION FIGURE

$24.95

DC

TOP 10 GAMES

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN118204J

RISK LEGACY (C: 1-1-4)

$32.99

HAS

2

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingOCT128266I

WALKING DEAD COMIC ED PX MONOPOLY (C: 1-1-2)

$39.99

USA

3

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN120128U

GAME OF THRONES PLAYING CARDS (C: 1-0-0)

$4.99

DAR

4

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingOCT128267I

WALKING DEAD COMIC ED PX RISK (C: 1-1-2)

$49.99

USA

5

12

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY142826E

DC DECK BUILDING GAME CRISIS EXP PK 1 (C: 1-1-2)

$20.00

CRY

6

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV074603G

SETTLERS OF CATAN NEW ED (C: 0-1-2)

$42.00

ALL

7

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY132319I

FIREFLY BOARD GAME (C: 0-1-2)

$49.99

ALL

8

9

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSEP122060E

BATMAN ARKHAM CITY ESCAPE BOARD GAME (C: 1-1-3)

$45.00

CRY

9

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR043750G

TICKET TO RIDE (C: 4)

$50.00

DOW

10

7

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN138233G

DC HEROCLIX BATMAN CLASSIC TV 24 CT GRAVITY FEED DS

$71.76

NEC

TOP 5 PRINTS & POSTERS

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN140748D

GUARDIANS OF GALAXY #18 BY ALEX ROSS POSTER

$8.99

MAR

2

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140951D

ROCKET RACCOON #1 POSTER

$8.99

MAR

3

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY140950D

CAPTAIN AMERICA #22 75TH ANNIV BY ROSS POSTER

$8.99

MAR

4

4

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAY138368D

AVENGERS VS X-MEN BY YOUNG POSTER NEW PTG

$8.99

MAR

5

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingMAR140788D

DEADPOOL WEDDING BY KOBLISH POSTER

$8.99

MAR

TOP 5 APPAREL

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

1

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUN128314J

ADVENTURE TIME DLX FINN HAT (NET) (C: 1-1-2)

$9.95

ZOO

2

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN120131U

GAME OF THRONES PIN HAND OF KING (C: 3)

$12.99

DAR

3

3

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingSTAR00972U

BATMAN SYMBOL I BLK T/S LG

$18.95

GRA

4

5

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV111316U

SUPERMAN 52 SYMBOL T/S MED (C: 1-1-3)

$18.95

GRA

5

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingNOV053538U

FANTASTIC FOUR FOURRIOR BLK T/S XL (C: 0-1-3)

$16.99

MAD

TOP 5 NOVELTIES

Qty Rank

Rtl Rank

Item Code

Description

Price

Vendor

1

2

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJUL121877I

SW DEATH STAR SILICONE TRAY (C: 1-1-4)

$9.99

KOT

2

16

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingDEC050058U

COOP KEEP EM HONEST PLAYING CARDS (C: 0-1-2)

$4.99

DAR

3

6

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingJAN120134U

GAME OF THRONES COASTER SET HOUSE SIGIL (C: 1-0-0)

$9.99

DAR

4

22

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAUG110057U

MASS EFFECT PLAYING CARDS (C: 0-1-2)

$4.99

DAR

5

10

 Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is kingAPR120059U

GAME OF THRONES COASTER SET SEASON 2

$9.99

DAR

 

10 Comments on Sales Charts: In the backlist, DC is king, last added: 10/17/2014
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12. TGI-FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Welcome to TGI-FOC, a weekly feature at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. I changed the name, for reasons. It’s a thing now.

RECOMMENDATIONS

It’s come up recently, so here’s the quick rundown of how I sell and recommend comics. First rule? Every comic is someone’s favourite. From AXIS to Tarot to Lumberjanes and beyond, there’s someone out there who is going to be blown away by the contents of a random comic. The goal, as always, is to match the comic to the audience, and to offer as little commentary as possible – unless asked point blank for an opinion. There’s a huge difference between “what’s this book about” and “what do you think of this book” – though in my experience, very few retailers and readers realize this. The amount of times I’ve heard people answer “what’s this book about” with “it sucks” is staggering, and it makes me sad. What if the person is the type who’d enjoy something you wouldn’t? When giving a recommendation or warning a potential reader of the dangers of reading, context is always key – which brings me to the second rule: always, always, always find out what a person likes before handing out recommendations. Do this by asking about their likes outside of the medium. It’s the best way to get the full range of a person’s likes, and it does a hell of a lot more for you than “I like Batman” or “I guess Saga is pretty good”.

Something to avoid? Recommending comics because you over ordered, or ordered lots. When you’re asked for a recommendation, someone is trusting you to help them out, not yourself. And sure, you might move a few copies of the book you over ordered, but at what price? If the customer doesn’t like the book, you’re going to have a harder time trying to sell them books in the future. Forget about the short term gain, and build a relationship that will help sustain your business. This is the reason why I never recommend books like AXIS to new readers – even if they’re looking for a book that has “a little bit of everyone in it”. A book like AXIS, you recommend to the folks who live and breathe Marvel, and the smattering of others who would be interested in the kind of bombastic story presented within. By and large, this kind of customer has a working knowledge of comics and a bit of the history – or at least enough to get them through the story with little incident. You would never, ever toss a new reader straight into the deep end, unless you knew they liked a bit of a challenge and like to troll Wikipedia (I have a few customers like that).

Anyway, there’s something out there for everyone, and little is accomplished by tearing down without context, at least as a retailer.

MARKETING

I’m not sure what the deal with October is, but I’m pretty sure the comic companies are trying to drown me in product. The first two weeks of the month have been weighed down with a lot of product, and after going through the FOCs for the last few weeks, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see lighter weeks any time soon. The one good thing? The torrent of product gives me a lot of material to work with when it comes to talking about comics and marketing.

First, a big thumbs up for IDW’s push of V-Wars.

IMG 0385 e1413004233391 1000x615 TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

What you have there is a picture of the first trade (just $9.99), a value priced rerelease of the first issue ($1), and the clearly marked start of the second story arc. That’s a pretty good way of making sure anyone can try and continue to buy the series with relative ease.

IMG 0386 e1413004274799 1000x553 TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Elsewhere, DC’s digital division hit the nail on the head by having the print editions of Flash: Season Zero #1 and Arrow: Season 2.5 #1 hit the stands just before and on their premieres respectively. People who were already excited about both shows found additional product, and others who didn’t know the shows were on or coming back were made aware. DC went the extra mile with Arrow by offering the first issue of Year One for a dollar, and having a great jumping on point in the character’s regular DCU ongoing (with one of the show runners acting as co-writer). As for The Flash, a solid effort was put in, but man, having a “Year One” story available for Barry Allen in the DCU would have been a great move, even if it was just the start of a mini set in current continuity.

As it stands, DC has been having a digital sale on a bunch of great <em>Flash</em> reads over at ComiXology, and has been doing so since the show premiered, so that’s pretty cool.

IMG 0387 e1413004299950 771x1028 TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

On the other hand, I’m not exactly sure what DC’s plans are for Constantine. I know they’re going to have a dollar book available when the show hits the airwaves, but where’s a good place for new fans to drop in on an ongoing? As it stands, my go-to is going to be recommending the newly minted Hellblazer trades and move things from there, but it hurts that I can’t point new readers in the direction of something currently in motion. The most recent issue of Constantine was an Earth Two tie in, which would only beget more questions than answers, and the collections of his current series throw him headlong into a big, messy crossover in the second trade. That’s not really an ideal situation, but it’s what’s there.

Though hey, points for the digital team for once again noticing a good marketing opportunity and plugging Constantine into the first issue of Injustice: Year Three. Again, the more ideal thing would be to have something with less baggage, but adding the character to one of their biggest digital successes certainly can’t harm things.

INCOMING

A couple of things to look out for on this week’s FOC for both retailers and readers alike:

ODY C TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Matt Fraction and Christian Ward’s ODY-C is on the list this week for shipping in late November. The reason for the big gap? Fraction and Ward are opening the thing with an eight page fold out. They wanted it to be larger, but apparently they’re jutting up against the edge of what can be done. Anyway, if you’re interested in a psychedelic gender-swapped version of Homer’s Odyssey – or know of anyone who might be – make sure your orders are placed sooner rather than later. (Spoiler alert: this is going to be crazy and wonderful and why wouldn’t you want such a thing?)

toothclawl TGI FOC // Adventures in Marketing

Also: Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey’s Tooth and Claw #1 is on the list. 44 pages of stunning artwork, digging deep into an anthropomorphic fantasy world filled with magic and gods and all sorts of wonderful things. People who have read Astro City and things like Arrowsmith know that Busiek puts his all into his creator owned book, and the man’s imagination left unbridled is a sight to see. Ben Dewey’s art is some pretty next level stuff, and they’ve got the Eisner award winning Jordie Bellaire handling the colours – which means it will also be one of the best looking books on the stands at the beginning of November. Oh, and it’s just $2.99. A bargain!

***

TO BE CONTINUED…

And that will have to do it for this week. Real Thanksgiving is happening this weekend in Canada, wherein we celebrate the fact that an explorer didn’t freeze to death. Seriously, that’s why we celebrate it. And what’s more Canadian than celebrating the fact that you haven’t already frozen to death?

Anyway, prep for the holiday and the various festivities means this is short and late. Such is life. Until next time.

0 Comments on TGI-FOC // Adventures in Marketing as of 10/11/2014 8:33:00 PM
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13. NYCC’14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel! Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!

2014 10 10 09.55.53 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!A diverse group of retailers await entry into the exclusive event!

Friday morning, Marvel hosted an exclusive event for retailers, announcing and teasing a variety of titles and projects.

 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!
On the panel:

  • Dan Buckley
  • David Gabriel
  • Alel Alonso
  • Tom Brevoort
  • Micke Marts
  • C. B. Cebulski
  • Nick Lowe
  • Mark Paniccia
  • Sana Amanat
  • Janine Schafer

After all cellphones were extinguished, an Ant-Man trailer was screened. It opens with a voice over from Hank Pym, then switches to Times Square, as Ant-Man tries to escape via insect.

After that, the audience saw a teaser for The Guardians of the Galaxy cartoon, featuring Rocket blowing things up.

This was followed by the intro to “Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop”, a one-hour special which will air on ABC on November 4, in the Agents of SHIELD timeslot.

Then we watched the Avengers trailer, as the boys try to lift Thor’s hammer. Utlron crashes the party, Manhattan becomes Metropolis, Tony fights the Hulk a la World War Hulk, and Stark Industry lawyers commit hari kari in anticipation of the the $1 Trillion class action lawsuit soon to be filed. (Okay, I made up that last part. But after the Battle of Midtown, with an estimated $160 Billion in damages, Tony might want to build his next mansion on Deimos.)

There were no teasers for the Netflix properties, as Marvel will be announcing that later at another panel.

Next up: comics!
Spider-Man #1: 650,000 copies
Rocket Raccoon #1: 320,000 copies
Thor #1: “a record for any Thor title”

The new Thor is fairly long term, running through Secret Wars and beyond.

Axis #1 was discussed. Tom Brevoort explained that the immediate launch of an event after a previous event was dictated by the storyline, and how what was to be a smaller arc in the Avengers titles expanded into something involving the entire Marvel universe.

If you blinked, you missed the $500 boxed set of Marvel’s 75th anniversary. It actuaqlly sold out before it shipped from Diamond, so Marvel will be producing another similar set soon.

January sees the “return of the jedi” to Marvel Comics. Mark Waid will be among the numerous creators. Marvel teased an Alex Ross re-creation of the first cover, and there will be a triptych variant of the first issues, from Skottie Young. (In order: Princess Leia, Star Wars, Darth Vader)

Spider-Verse kicks into high gear with Amazing Spider-Man #9. Spider-Gwen will have an ongoing series, produced by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi. (Awesome cover!)

Inhumans are reaching their 50th anniversary, and Marvel will be diversifying an already diverse title, adding new, young characters.

The changes on “All-New Captain America” (Capt. Samerica?) will also run through Secret Wars.

“Superior Iron Man” was teased as a more narcissistic personality. (Dark Iron Man?)

Secret Wars (teased with a massive fustercluck slobberknocker cover of heroes fighting themselves) is scheduled to hit May 2015.

Marvel did not take questions from the audience, but did select a few via twitter, controlling what was advertised as “a no-holds barred Q&A”.  Overall, the audience was pleased with what Marvel is publishing, and the panelists were approachable afterwards for additional questioning.  (I was able to engage Axel Alonso over the dearth of beginning reader comics from Marvel.)

David Gabriel ended the presentation with two slides which were photographed. He had no further comment, but encouraged rampant speculation:

2014 10 10 10.48.27 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!The End Is Four Ever

 NYCC14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel!  Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!No More Mutants

My instant reaction?
Disney Studios is not happy with Fox.
(Myself, I would not be surprised if we Marvel fold the X-Men titles under the Avengers brand.)

2 Comments on NYCC’14: Retailer Exclusive: Meet Marvel! Marvel Teases Upcoming Events!, last added: 10/12/2014
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14. Lightning doesn’t strike twice with Future’s End

batman butt selfie Lightning doesnt strike twice with Futures End

September is Big Event month at DC Comics, and they crushed it this September as they usually do with their super lenticular covered Future’s End event which saw stand-alone stories set five years in the future of the DCU. These “random future” events usually disappoint me as I expect to see the Flash living with is brother in law and their two kids, and Poison Ivy running a plant shop, but then, that’s me. Anyway, Multiversity talked to a bunch of retailers about how the event did compared to last year’s Villain’s month which was allocated and ignited a frenzy as they say. Most retailers I’ve talked to say it was okay but not great and the Multiversity survey yielded similar thoughts. It is a sad time when a Batman butt selfie only does okay but these are the times we live in.

They followed up this piece with expanded interviews with retailers and there are quite a few interesting statements from Ralph DiBernardo of Jetpack Comics, Steve Anderson, of Third Eye Comics, Patrick Brower of Challengers and Gary Dills of Laughing Ogre Comics. I won’t excerpt their comments so just go read the whole thing.

The ongoing softness of stunts and events and growing reliance on variant covers is sure to ignite a new round of “Is the era of the event over?” tittle tattle. People have been saying this for about a decade and events are still here. But the “new reader” seems to be less interested in them. After all Saga sells like cray and has no events, spin-offs or tie-ins.

That said, I imagine some day there will be a Saga-Sex Criminal crossover and a whole new cohort will fall in love with the event and the cycle shall begin anew.

6 Comments on Lightning doesn’t strike twice with Future’s End, last added: 10/9/2014
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15. Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman

If you’re picking up Batman #35 this week, do yourself a favour and check out the price point. See that $4.99 price sticker? Originally solicited at the regular $3.99 price, DC sent an e-mail to retailers last week telling them that the price of Batman #35-37 would be pumped up to the $4.99 mark in order to account for additional story pages (surprise: Kelley Jones is back!).

batman35cover Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman

This series has been no stranger to the occasional price bump, with four of the twelve Zero Year issues clocking in at prices equal to or above the $4.99 price point (issue #24 ran a stunning $6.99), and so DC’s choice to pump up the price in the face of extra content shouldn’t come as a surprise. The problem, was this: retailers (and the creative team) were informed of this change on September 30th, whereas the book was sent to press in and around September 15th, the final day retailers had to send in orders. In essence, the company waited a full 15 days after retailers sent in their final numbers to let them know that they were about to charge 20% more for a book they were contractually obligated to purchase.

A few notes: when these changes happen after solicitations have gone out, the product being offered does become returnable, which is good. If I want to return every issue I have left unsold of Batman #35, I can absolutely do that… eventually. I’ve been working in the industry for 8 years, and I still can’t quite grasp the process, but that’s probably because operating in Canada plies a whole ‘nother set of hoops to jump through.

Second: after hearing about this price jump, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo approached the company and implored them to lower the price back to $3.99. The company was receptive to this, and announced yesterday that they would only be charging $3.99 for issues #36 and 37, which is cool. The problem is this: enacting price jumps after information has gone out is not a thing that should happen. I understand the realities of this business sometimes require a bit of adjustment, and that retroactively a creative team and editor will decide that things needs more space to breathe. Letting retailers know after committing to product? That’s a pretty crap thing to do. It certainly isn’t business busting, but it’s a reminder about how terrible the contracts retailers sign in order to get comics are. Technically, Marvel or DC could announce tomorrow that all of their books are going to jump a dollar, effective immediately. All of this product would be made returnable eventually, but in the meantime, somewhere, there are comic shops that are either just starting or are currently, for whatever reason, operating by the skin of their teeth. They purchase product using a strict budget, because if they don’t, there’s going to be trouble. Imagine learning that a large chunk of your books were suddenly going to be 20-25% more expensive immediately, with no time to adjust. That’s going to be quite a nightmare. But what are you going to do? Not get Batman in your store? Pff. Sure. Let’s see how that goes down for you.

Now ply that to a smaller scale and think about customers. There are a lot of people out there living by the skin of their teeth. They buy comics as a means for escape, but they only have a set amount of money. I know back when I first started picking up comics from a file, I kept a list of 20 books a month, because that’s all I could afford. Some can’t quite do that. Now imagine all of your books increasing significantly overnight. I know that this happens quite often, that Marvel’s across the board policy of $3.99 comics have caused problems for a few people, and that DC’s $3.99 Septembers are no help either. While I often advocate the fact that people will pay $3.99 or $4.99 for their superhero books without blinking (and I have the sales data to back this up), I know that there are those out there for whom the idea of spending that much on a title is insanity. The unfortunate thing for both customers and retailers is this: your budget problems don’t really amount to much when it comes to overall sales.

While a $4.99 comic might have me losing one or two customers, I still have more than enough people for whom that jump is not a deal breaker. In the case of Batman, over the course of Zero Year, I lost a single customer due to the various jumps in price, while all others gladly made purchases. My loss incurred was matched ten-fold by the extra money the price increase nabbed me. The same goes for the industry at large – which is why from a purely business standpoint, DC is crazy for leaving money on the table and dropping the price of the next two issues of Batman. That said, I do have to applaud the company for doing the human thing and keeping the title at $3.99. While it leaves a stack of money on the table, it is greatly appreciated by myself, and many others.

It seems weird to try and thank a company who caused the problem that they are fixing, but let’s be honest: if this goes without remark, they’re going to get the wrong message. They’re going to look at how money is spent, and opt for the quick buck over something more sustainable. So DC? Thanks for not being 100% a dick. Despite what last week’s comics might have suggested.

grayson3 4 668x1028 Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman

from Grayson #3

But we’ll talk about that bit of business later.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

1 Comments on Wednesday Pulse: The Fluctuating Prices of Batman, last added: 10/9/2014
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16. The Retailer’s View // Speculative Non-Fiction

Death of Wolverine 3 Cover 198x300 The Retailers View // Speculative Non Fiction

The Death of Wolverine has gone over exceedingly well – or at least it has in my shop. Putting aside sales numbers (which were apparently great), the event has garnered quite a bit of attention in the medium and the shop in general. After putting a few copies in the window, we get a steady flow of people who either haven’t read comics or haven’t read comics in years walking into the store, wondering what’s going on – and as any retailer will tell you, getting people through the door is often half the battle. Local news affiliates stopped by the store to interview me about the Wolverine statue that folks are pushing to erect in the city in the wake of the runt’s impending death, which has garnered a few more drop ins. And a bonus? The story has been pretty great and has featured quite a bit of reader retention. I mean, the first three issues could have been terrible, and a certain amount of people would have stuck out to the bitter end, but quality books are far easier to sell, and ease is always appreciated. In the end, I should have no problem burning through the hefty order I placed, which is a calming notion. Unfortunately, the whole thing seems to have awakened more speculators, which is really sticking in my craw.

First things first: I would never begrudge a person who wants to make money off of their comic purchases. Doing so would be blindingly hypocritical coming from a man who puts food in his mouth by doing the same thing on a bulk-purchase scale. If you want to buy several copies of Harley Quinn a month and sell a few of them on the internet for a few extra scheckles, go right ahead! Go forth and reap those rewards. My problem comes up when the speculative market starts to overwhelm the reading market, creating shuddering blips in supply and demand that end up distorting the value of comics, perceived or otherwise. That’s when things get dangerous, and we’re getting closer and closer to the tipping point with each and every event these days.

When most people think of speculation, they think of the decadent excess of the 90s, when retailers were purchasing comics by the pallet and customers were buying them buy the case. Despite the fact that the industry was drowning in product, there was the idea that certain comics were going to be worth money, based off of past performance. Pouncing on this, comic companies did everything and anything they could do to get some quick, easy money. Multiple covers were produced, holograms and foil and glow-in-the-dark inks were introduced into the printing process, and everyone generally went crazy manufacturing inflated demand for a large supply, never stopping to scale back and look at the quality and contents of what was being sold. In the end, the basic retail forces of proper supply and demand reasserted themselves. Things crashed, and crashed hard.

X Force 1 poly 186x300 The Retailers View // Speculative Non Fiction

You can find these everywhere. One is watching you right now. Another phones you weekly, but never speaks.

Our current market is a reflection of what happened in the nineties, both in terms of its’ current shape, and the effect that speculation is having on it today. While I feel as though the quality of the product has never been higher in terms of storytelling and paper stock, quantities are nowhere near what the industry was shifting even just a decades ago. Some of that is due to the general attrition that has come to once strong mediums like radio, television, music and movies, but a good deal of it emerged from the sense of worth that comics have been stuck with since the speculative bubble popped. Not only were people purchasing comics by the handful expecting to make a mint, people were buying $2 comics for wildly inflated prices. Both parties have been unhappy to learn that their investments have largely not paid off. Every single day, I get at least one call from someone hoping to unload a collection of “really old comics” on me for stacks of cash, and almost every single day, I have to inform said parties that their piles of comics are worth next to nothing. Whether I’m telling them that they won’t see a large return on their bulk purchase, or that they spent $20 on a book that is only worth cover price, the fact remains: I am telling them that their comics are worthless. Most eventually take that bit of information and simplify it to “comics are worthless”. A person with that idea floating around in their head certainly isn’t predisposed to discovering or rediscovering the medium – and that’s a huge problem that the boom left the current industry with.

Compounding this is the fact that bulk speculation still occurs today. There are still people out there buying piles of The Walking Dead and Harley Quinn in hopes that they will be turning a profit on said books in the near or far future. Hell, there are retailers who purchase copies of books and deliberately short stack the shelves and keep stacks of books in their back room, all in the hopes of getting more cash at a later date. While I can’t really blame anyone for doing this, or making money off of a book when demand is tight and supply is high, it always puts a deep dark pit in my stomach. Playing with or deliberately creating blips in supply or manufacturing and manipulating demand never ends well. It’s dynamite in the short term, but it can not be relied upon in the long term, and it is often irreparably damaging. You can take a look at any economy that has toyed with building and manipulating supply and demand for profit and see the effects. The short term is always wonderful, but the long term? The long term is often nightmarish. And sure, everyone and everything can and often will recover, but not without incurring loss. The comic industry has been through such a period once. It’s threatening to do it again, as multiple covers and gimmicks sweep through the culture again, everyone searching for the quick dollar and the easy sell.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m not a part of this: I ordered far more Death of Wolverine than I could sell to readers. I did this, because I knew that speculators would want to get their hands on some copies, and that some would want multiples. I knew that these same speculators would look at the variants offered, and place down extra money to procure them. I increased my orders because I knew that ordering less would leave my readers high and dry. They’d be waiting for second printings while other people slid their copies in bags, never intending to read them or return to the store. I would damage my relationship with my regular customers for those with temporary deep pockets. In such a situation, I am damned if I do place a big order, because I’m enabling something that will clearly not end well, or I am damned if I don’t, because my regular customers will suffer. In the end, I try to do my best to make sure that my regulars are served, and leave the rest to be what it will be. That’s all I really can do.

Now, to really illustrate my outlook on this, I want to share with you a recent encounter I had at the store. A man walked in, looking to purchase any and all of the Death of Wolverine #1 variants that we had. One of everything. I gladly did this, and offered him a discount, because he was dropping a sizeable wad of cash on what was essentially the same book reprinted however-many-times-over. Four weeks later, the man returns to buy all of the Death of Wolverine #3 variants. A note: he did not come to the store to grab our #2s. He was just hitting the store as it was the most convenient place for him at the moment. After purchasing the books, he asked if there was a way we could offer him a discount of some kind for whenever he came through the door. I asked if he would be interested in grabbing issue four and it’s various covers from us. He said he didn’t know, because he wasn’t sure where he’d be. I let him know that we give discounts to people who subscribe to or pre-order certain series, because it helps us know what to order. He then said, (and this is word for word), “So even though I’ve spent more in your store in one month than some of these guys spend all year, you won’t give me a discount?”

3Months to Die Wolverine 8 12 300x89 The Retailers View // Speculative Non Fiction

More like “rad-mantium”, amirate?

Now, I never said I wouldn’t give him a discount, but at that point, his voice was getting sharp and irritated, and I was in no mood. He was essentially asking me what I valued more: his admittedly arbitrary patronage (a further note: I had never seen this man before in my eight years of working at the store) or someone who came in week after week, month after month, and kept us in business. I kindly informed him that discounts were reserved for regular customers, at which point, he stormed out of the establishment. I doubt I will see him again. That said, I really doubt I was going to see him before or after October 15th when the final issue hit, and he purchased that last of the run. At the end of the day, I’m not losing sleep over that one – and I have the added bonus that the copies he was going to procure will probably end up in the hands of someone who will come back.

In the end, that’s all a store can do. People will always come in and do as they will – the only thing you can control is the way you act and react to them. As a retailer, you will never be able to stop speculation – but you can do everything in your power to temper the effects. Make sure that above all else, you are serving your regulars, and that you have the product and mindfulness to keep pushing to make more people come into and return to your store. The easiest way to do this? Don’t speculate yourself. Purchase to match demand as well as you can, and when you don’t, resist the urge to mark up your final copies. There’s a reason why the comic companies priced the comic the way they did: that’s what they believe the contents within are worth. $3, $3.50, $4… that’s the real monetary worth of a comic, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Be good in your ordering, be great to your customers, and reward those who are good to you in return. If enough retailers do this, the industry shouldn’t have trouble moving forward.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat.]

5 Comments on The Retailer’s View // Speculative Non-Fiction, last added: 10/6/2014
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17. Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

Welcome to Go FOC Yourself, a weekly column at The Beat about comics on Final Order Cut-Off (FOC) and bits of the retail process that don’t merit a full column. This week, I’ve been diving through the back issues in our overstock and I have caught a little space madness. This will turn out quite well.

SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #9

unchained superman 226x300 Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

For the course of this book’s entire run, I’ve been typing “Superman Unchined”, which is a thing that I want to seen drawn for reasons. You definitely needed to know that, especially given my propensity for grammatical errors.

This week’s final order cut off has the last issue of Superman Unchained, and now I can set fire my feelings of disappointment and send the whole thing off to sea. While Scott Snyder and Jim Lee put together a phenomenal book, DC could have done so much more with this series. So, so much more.

The series launched in June last year with an eye to become the flagship Superman title as the Man of Steel movie hit the theatres. A new ongoing featuring white hot creator Scott Snyder and artist powerhouse Jim Lee? There was almost no way DC could screw up this marketing opportunity. And yet.

Starting with the baffling Unchained moniker, the entire run of this series runs like “how to not sell a series” seminar. Launching a new Superman book along with the movie? Smart. Doing so without the easy cash in of the unused Man of Steel series title? A little foolish. Then there was the decision to attach a creative team whose time was heavily taxed, resulting in heavy delays. While seeing the names Scott Snyder and Jim Lee on a Superman book definitely moved a few copies, the shipping schedule did more harm than good. Add to that the fact that this was nothing more than a mini-series disguised as an ongoing, and things get a bit dicier.

There are two things a series needs to have going for it in order to sell: it has to be regular, and it has to be ongoing. The characters and creative team involved certainly matter to a great extent, but all is for naught if a series doesn’t ship on time, or if it has a pre-announced end point. Retailers and fans alike will react negatively to books with pre-set end dates and late shipping books.. If a series manages to combine both qualifiers, it’s doubly bad. Do you know where a series by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee should be on the sales charts? Name power alone says it should be destroying Batman, let alone a launch tied in with a movie watched by millions of people. In practice, it moves a little over half the copies that Batman does. Is that where Jim Lee should be on the stands? Most certainly not – but you can’t shrug off the effects of a late shipping book. Late shipping books tell the reader that they are going to have to wait for content – and if the word “wait” is floating around in their heads, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump over to “I might as well wait until this comes out in collection”. Why tease yourself with content once every… three months? Why not wait to get the whole story?

This reaction is always compounded when a series is only set to run a certain amount of issues. DC curtailed a lot of this by leaving the status of this series deliberately vague. History stated that if Jim Lee was attached as an artist, the consecutive run wouldn’t be a long one, owing to his general production pace, and the demands placed on him as one of the higher ups in DC – but the question remained: would the series continue with different creative components? Would Unchained become a strange boutique book for big creators, or would it go the Astonishing X-Men route, tossing on creative team after creative team until the whole thing lost steam and came to a halt? The answer turned out to be “retroactive mini-series” which is the worst of all possible outcomes. While a different creative team is never ideal, it does elongate the span of time a retailer can sell a book – because make no mistake: a book might be popular when it is coming out, but sales (especially back issue sales) take a steep nosedive the moment that a final issue hits the shelves. Why? Well, if the series has ended, and the momentum has stopped, why not wait for a collection? There’s no impetis to go forward, no reason to collect. And so, a book like this bleeds away 75% of its sales over the course of it’s 9 issue run, both a success (because it always sold enough) and a failure (because it could have been so much more). And in the course of it’s run, it also damaged the idea of a Superman series selling in the current market. Have you seen the numbers for the Geoff Johns/John Romita Jr. run? Pitiful, considering the players involved, and I suspect it has a direct correlation to the fact that DC couldn’t properly execute a big launch tied to a movie, with two of the company’s biggest creators and a new number one. Seriously, how do you mess that up?

RELATED

Speaking of the whole “finite series” stigma, have you ever noticed how Marvel generally doesn’t tell people when something has reached the end of it’s run? For the most part, they wait to let people know about the last issue in a series until after a retailer places their final orders for the final issue. In this way, they bypass a bit of the “finite series” stigma, and can squeeze a few extra sales out of a dead series. It’s short term thinking at it’s worst, and probably effects titles like Loki and Hulk when they disappear for a few months without much in the way of explanation. (Yes, I know both series were put on hold while the Original Sin series ran, but you had to be the type who pays attention to the actual comics and the Comics Internet, and a good chunk of reatilers do not do that. So.)

ON ITS AXIS

axis1covercheung 70690 199x300 Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

art by Jim Cheung

This has already passed the point of being on the final order cut-off, but the heft of the event demands a little bit of comment: I breezed through the copy of AXIS #1 that Marvel provided about a week back, and noticed a few interesting things. One: the file was called Days of Future Now, which I would guess was the working title for the storyline. Two: the story does rely heavily on the events that have taken place in Uncanny Avengers, so much so that it could almost function as a continuation of that series. The recap page does take care of the bigger plot points that need to be addressed, but if you’re the type to require more of a complete experience, I would definitely hazard on the side of grabbing the Road to AXIS issues of Uncanny Avengers – and if you’re the really plot sensitive type, I’d get the whole damn series. A note: with the right attitude, you can read AXIS just fine without complication – in fact, the majority of folks predisposed to this kind of story will and love it. That said, there are more than a few delicate flowers out there who will need to start grabbing copies now. If you’re a retailer and know the type, make sure you have back issues at the ready. If you’re a customer, and feel the itch, start looking now before someone else does.

FOC PICK OF THE WEEK // RASPUTIN #1

STK652997 197x300 Go FOC Yourself // The Latest

Russia’s famous love machine.

So many reasons to pick up this series. I started following Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo when they started Proof together, and both have grown considerably in that time. Alex is now a New York Times best selling author, and Riley has gone on to produce some stunning works, from creator owned book like Green Wake, all the way to the trippy drug sequences in the later issues of Daken: Dark Wolverine.

This series digs right into the heart of all the weird Russian history stuff that I loved as a kid – only this is comics, so things get strange pretty fast. Rasputin by way of dark magic and occasional bears. This is something you need.

TO BE CONTINUED…

And that’s where things end for this week. Next time, the first batch of November releases will hit the sheets, and we’ll go through all of that then. And hey, maybe I’ll get around to changing the title of this series. Wouldn’t that be nice? I’m taking suggestions, BTW.

Stay tuned for Monday when my Retailer’s View series resumes with an update on how The Death of Wolverine is selling and the preliminary results of speculators flocking to the series. Until then, you can check out my column on events in general, and stress the hell out.

 

7 Comments on Go FOC Yourself // The Latest, last added: 10/5/2014
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18. Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn

Sex and Violence 2 Cover Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn

Everyone should  “Listen to JImmy” Palmiotti that is. The veteran writer, artist editor and publisher is one of the most knowledgeable comics people out there.  With his collaborators from Paperfilms, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner, he’s made a small publishing enterprise out of kickstarting a series of graphic novels based on the European album format. The seventh, Sex and Violence  Vol. II is ending in a few days and we advise you to get in on the Amanda Conner/Dave Johnson action as soon as possible — the books will not be sold in any other way. We talked to Palmiotti a few months ago when he was Kickstarting the SF tale Denver and got his overall thoughts on using Kickstarter as a platform. This time out we talk about the storytelling process,finding artists and also find out how Harley Quinn, which he co-writes with Amanda Conner, has become one of DC’s bestselling titles, with a huge female fan base. 

The Beat: Sex and Violence is billed as stories of “crime, lust, and redemption.” Are  these stories that you carried around for a while or did you sit down to think of  them just for this volume? 

3047913 jimmy3 12 300x281 Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn

Photo by Seth Kushner

Palmiotti: I can’t speak for Justin, but I have had the FILTER story idea for a while and was  at one point going to pitch it as a series, but never got around to it. I reworked  it so it can be enjoyed as a single story with a beginning and an end. The other  short story was something I came up with and thought it might fit perfectly into  the book. A lot of the time story ideas hit me and I keep files on them, waiting for  the right time or opportunity to place them. I have another story that I want to do  and hope we can get to a volume 3 of this series.

The Beat: I know Justin Gray wrote one of the stories, but can you tell us a little about  each of the three stories, and what interested you enough in your two to tell the  tale?

Palmiotti: Justin’s is called RED DOG ARMY and its based on actual history. Hitler  launched a full-scale invasion on Russia called Operation Barabossa, and Stalin,  reacting to this, authorized a special unit to train dogs as anti-tank weapons, sort  of a suicide dog squad. It’s a real interesting setting to tell a story and beautifully  illustrated by Rafa Garres whom we worked a number of time with on Jonah Hex.  The next story is called DADDY ISSUES and is about a mother and daughter  living in a trailer park dealing with the men in their lives. Its got a very tales from  the crypt feel but works perfectly here. Romina Moranelli illustrated it and it’s  just beautiful. The last story is called FILTER and it’s a look back on a killer’s life  and the things he has done to get to where he is today. It’s dark and cruel and  will stay with you for a while, I think. Vanesa R. Del Ray illustrates that story, an  art student I met a couple of years ago that is making a name for herself all over  now. All three stories work together pretty nicely.

The Beat: Your two stories sounds like they have fairly unsympathetic protagonists,  which I know can be a challenge. How do you make dark characters like this  compelling enough for the reader to want to follow along?

Palmiotti: Well, with Daddy Issues, you sort of understand what they are going through, but  in the end, these are killers and you should be scared to be around them. With  Filter, I set out to give the reader an understanding of how someone goes from  bad to worse. The interesting aspect of the story is there is a level or redemption  to the character that makes him a bit more sympathetic. I think the trick is to  humanize the situation into something we can relate to so we understand the  extreme reaction the character takes. Honestly, all of these characters are scary  on their own level.

The Beat: How do you find artists for these? You’ve said it’s like casting, and as a  sometimes editor, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes you think of an  element of a comics story and an artist just pops into your head with just the  qualities that will make it work. Do you keep a physical or mental folder of artists  you want to work with?

Palmiotti: I actually meet most of them at conventions. They come by and show me  their work and I can feel the enthusiasm. I keep a file and also give them my  contact and hope they follow through and we chat again. The people that I end  up working with are the ones that stay after me and keep sending their latest  samples. I try to stay up as well on who is new and exciting in the field best I  can. I buy just about every new book that comes out, which my local retailer,  Emerald City loves. The casting thing is a perfect way of explaining what I do for  each story, It’s one of the most important parts of the job. I always say the Marvel  Knights gig was all about casting the right people with the right characters. The  magic happens after that.

The Beat: Do you ever write a story for a specific artist?

Palmiotti: All of the time. All three of the stories in Sex and Violence are catered to the  artist. I may have an idea, but once I know who the artist is going to be, I change  it to fit their style. In the case of All Star Western and Jonah Hex, we always  wrote for the artist. I think that’s how we got their best work. Issue 34 of All Star  was made for Darwyn Cooke and once we knew G.I.Zombie was going to be  Scott Hampton, the book took a creepier, grounded tone. I didn’t want to fight  against his style. I also think the work is better for it.

The Beat: I talked with you a few months ago for your Denver Kickstarter and it  sounds like you really have crowdfunding down to a science.   Were there any tweaks to the model this time?

Palmiotti: Yes, I did a few after the Denver Campaign. The first thing I did is stop  offering the expensive packages overseas because we felt the price was  too high to ask for the shipping and to be honest, a lot of the packages got  lost or damaged pretty bad. The next thing was limit the prints because we  felt there wasn’t as big a need for them this time, and last, since this is a  follow up of a series of books, we went back to press and reprinted the first  book with two brand new covers by Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson,  knowing a lot of people did not get the first one that might be backing the  new one.

The Beat: Your Kickstarter books seem to have a very European feel to them and  not just because you often use foreign artists. Is that part of the inspiration  for these books?

Palmiotti: It’s based on my love of European comics and artists. I grew up on Heavy  Metal and with that steady diet; it was bound to have its influence. I also  like to make the books mature audience books, again, a very European  thing. I feel I do a ton of all ages work for the mainstream, so we get to  unleash ourselves here and do whatever works for the story.

 Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley QuinnThe Beat: On another note, Harley Quinn has been a huge hit for DC and for the  Paperfilms crew. I saw you talking recently about the fact that it has a lot  of women readers. I know it’s all still anecdotal for DC but this audience  seems to be one that is really growing quickly. Can you talk about your  own experiences with that?

Palmiotti: Amanda and I have had a very busy year of conventions and signings and  the thing we noticed from working on the Harley book is that the majority  of the people coming up to us are females of all ages. We have only had  this happen once before and it was for the Painkiller Jane series. The cool  thing about this group is that we’ve had a large percentage telling us it’s  the first comic book they ever bought and thanking us for not weighing  down the title with continuity. They say they love that they can just pick up  an issue and enjoy it without going broke or feeling left out and confused  because they haven’t bought 15 other books. It’s something I am always  aware of on all my books because I’m one of those people that, if I feel  lost picking up a book, I never go back to it again.

What we are learning is that the traditional idea of done–in-one stories  not selling in comics just doesn’t apply to the new audience buying the  books, and believe me, most of that new audience are female. I think the problem right now is we have some people running the companies that just aren’t going out and trying new comics or interacting with the next wave of readers and keep pushing things the traditional way they did years ago. The retailers themselves are seeing this happening daily now and I feel it’s the reason Image comics will continue to grow and eventually outsell the big two, unless they start thinking outside the box and just make superheroes a PART of their publishing plan and not the entire thing and start looking at the different ways a superhero type of book can be done. Harley is one example , Hawkeye is another . The traditional graphics people associate comics with have been changing for years now and the market is embracing different looks and styles that are outside the house style and its pretty cool to see.

The thing that keeps me interested in comics is the prospect of new  ideas, new voices and especially new methods of applied technology and  connecting with the audience. It’s what keeps the Paperfilms crew and I  trying new things all the time. As an example, we had a soundtrack scored  on our last book DENVER and people loved it. That and the fact that  people can go to Paperfilms.com and get digital downloads of our books,  prints of Amanda’s work and copies directly from us is the next big for  creators these days. That thing is the connection between the creator and  the fan; something bigger companies have no real interest in promoting.  This is also happening in all media. Things are changing fast, and for me,  all for the better.

The Beat: You’ve made your Kickstarters a real cottage industry, What are your  plans going forward? How many a year do you foresee doing and how long  are you going to keep at it?

Palmiotti: I will keep making Kickstarters for as long as we have an audience for  them. The people that back our Kickstarters are a lot of repeat customers  and we are growing that fan base with every project. Our plans going  forward are to do more of them and take on less work that we just do to  pay the bills. Kickstarter has been a huge learning experience for us in so  many ways. Each project teaches us what the audience wants from us. We  look at the hard numbers, the comments and all the interaction and fine  tune each and every new project to be able to connect better with the fans.  We have only a few days left on SEX AND VIOLENCE VOL. 2 and after  this, we have another book ready to roll that is a western graphic novel,  something you would think we had enough of…but this one is different in a  number of ways and we are super excited to announce it in a few weeks.

5 Comments on Jimmy Palmiotti on Kickstarting Sex and Violence II and why women are reading Harley Quinn, last added: 9/22/2014
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19. The secret of comics history that people on the internet don’t want you to know!

jill trent science sleuth

I was asked not too long ago what was something I was proud of writing on The Beat, and it’s actually something I didn’t write. This post by political communications specialist Brett Schenker entitled Market Research Says 46.67% of Comic Fans are Female from February, was pretty groundbreaking. Why am I mentioning a six month old post? Well, people continue to quote it when they look for demographic information on comics readership, and it represents a solid benchmark in an area where there is shockingly little research. Schenker’s research via Facebook, which he’s graciously presented here, has been quoted in numerous articles and yesterday it was referenced in this Time.Com piece on the new female Thor. I tweeted it again and it got a whole new set of reactions on twitter from people who hadn’t seen it the first time.

But before talking about that let’s go back to Lady Thor. In the official Marvel PR about the new book, this bombshell was dropped:

THOR is the latest in the ever-growing and long list of female-centric titles that continues to invite new readers into the Marvel Universe. This female THOR is the 8th title to feature a lead female protagonist and aims to speak directly to an audience that long was not the target for Super Hero comic books in America: women and girls.

Now that coupled with the announcement of the book on The View indicates, ever to subtly, that this books was being marketed as something that actual women who are non-comics-averse might be curious about. I’ve seen some suggestions that there were big political machination behind all this, and I’m sure there’s a story there, but we’ll take it at face value for now. As I’ve indicated before, Marvel/Disney are big on customer info, and about a year ago they started being way more female reader friendly, so obviously something is happening.

Sue at DCWKA took the Marvel statement as the occasion for a much deserved victory lap:

Say what? I’m sorry what was that? Is Marvel actually saying they want female readers? That they are now targeting female readers? 

Why yes they are.

It’s almost worth the amount of trolling, attacks, rape threats and other shit I’ve experienced to see this.

Of course, DC Comics also seems to be finally finding the female audience worthy of their attention. Nothing as clear cut as Marvel did above but the recent Batgirl respin and Gotham Academy are clearly going after that audience and I was told by folks close to those books that women are definitely are a target.

Two years ago Heidi McDonald wrote a great story  (that I disagreed with) about how Marvel and DC would never truly [target] female readers.

But now? Something has changed at both publishers.

Is it real? Will it last? Who knows?

But I will say I am enjoying it.

It’s true that two years ago I felt that the place of superheroes as the great hope for boys entertainment at both WB and Disney meant that aiming them squarely at the male demographic was in their corporate interests. Since then, female consumership of all kinds of media has become a lot more obvious via social media and so maybe a dollar is a dollar. (See Box-Office Woes: Age and Gender Gap Helping Fuel Summer Decline.)
It is also possible that superheroes are just SO IRRESISTIBLE to EVERYONE that even girl cooties can’t destroy boy interest in them. The success of Marvel’s movies would seem to be the prime evidence of that.

Anyway, yesterday was a busy day but I took a peek back at Brett’s original post and scanned the comments, which are a fleet of brittle ocean liners of denial in a troubled sea of floating demographic icebergs. These comments also aroused a new round of response on twitter, from dismay to agreement. But in the comments a matter was broached by Kurt Busiek that is far more telling, to me anyway: why the female readership of the comics medium dwindled so much in the 80s that it’s taken us 30 years to admit that it might actually exist.

Girls have always read comics.

They read early newspaper strips. They read early superhero comics. They certainly read romance comics and humor comics in the 40s and 50s and on through the 60s. (Trina Robbins‘s research deiscovered readership statements from the 50s that showed a bit more 50% of the comics readership was female.) They read Archies. They read later newspaper strips, in fact they read them to this day.

But of course, in the 70s, the newsstand distribution system for cheap comics dissolved, to be replaced by the direct sales market, a business run by passionate fans of mostly superhero comics, a group that was heavily male, as early fanzines show. The other day John Jackson Miller did a major analysis of Archie sales through the years (which got picked up by Fivethirtyeight.com, go John!) and it included this chart of Archie newsstand sales, according to Post Office statements:
ArchieChart.jpg
Not too much to argue with there. Without newsstands and their broad, non fanatic readership, Archie sales struggled. And since the readership was significantly female, you can see right there where the girls went away. 

We were left with a period, lasting to this day although drifting away as the dawn breaks up a fog, in which a factual situation that was demonstrably historically true—women reading comics—simply became nonexistent.
Scary, isn’t it?

I’m not sure why it is so, so important that the comics medium remain a boys club to so many men. Guys, you can read what you want and no one will ruin it just by liking Lucy Knisley or Moto Haggio. I think it’s fine to have boy-focused material like Batman or Spider-Man or whatever, as long as you don’t use boy focused material as “proof” that women don’t read comics. It’s like saying that just because guys overwhelmingly like Transformers movies, women don’t like any movies. 

It’s exactly like that.

Luckily, as I’ve said here many times, the internet has revealed some truths that gatekeeper media did its best to suppress. So now we see cartooning schools overwhelmingly female, conventions about 40% female, bestselling female cartoonists, award winning female cartoonists, popular female characters, and lots of women who demonstrably provably read and enjoy the comics medium. 

Are the numbers in Brett’s Facebook research writ in granite? No. But since FB mostly exists as a giant marketing tool, it’s kind of what this sort of research was made to do. It isn’t voodoo, it isn’t lies, it isn’t damn lies, it’s just statistics. Statistics which are generally born out by other demographics that we’re seeing.


Perhaps most amusing about all this is concern trolling by those who claim to want to get comics back to “the mainstream” by getting back on “newsstands.” I got news for ya hub, we have a new newsstand it’s called digital and the mainstream—just as it was for the first 70 years or so of the comics medium’s existence in the US—appeals to a fairly broad demographic.

Just to finish up, Brett is working on updated research which I’ll be presenting at this panel at San Diego, where Rob Salkowivz will also be presenting new demographic info from Eventbrite. Come on out to find out if they match up!

The Future of Geek

Will comics’ takeover of pop culture continue, or has geek peaked? Industry-watchers Heidi MacDonald (The Beat), Rob Salkowitz (Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture), and Tim Beyers (Motley Fool) follow the money in conventions, movies, and publishing to forecast the future of the fandom business. John Siuntres (Word Balloon podcast) moderates.
Friday July 25, 2014 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Room 28DE

 

Image via Superdames

14 Comments on The secret of comics history that people on the internet don’t want you to know!, last added: 7/17/2014
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20. The Retailer’s View // The Death of Archie and Selling Comics

by Brandon Schatz

On Monday, the pop culture bereft owner of my shop phoned had asked if I had ordered enough of the “death of Archie thing” that was happening. As with all comics, the news of this event had been announced well in advance. As always, calls came pouring in over the telephone lines. People wanted the comic where Archie dies. I had to explain to them that it wouldn’t be happening until July. At this point, reactions would vary from uncomfortable silence to outright indignation. One such phone customer accused me of hoarding copies to sell for a premium at a later date. I had to bite my tongue before I told them they didn’t understand the first thing about books like this.

LifeWithArchie_36_FionaStaples.jpg

When books like Life With Archie #36 hit the stands, the store gets a mountain of phone calls and visitors looking to get their mitts on copies of the books in question. A sizeable chunk of these people are just popping into the medium for a visit, having heard the news on the radio or television or from a friend. Most just want to have a copy to say they have it. Some even want to read the damn thing. Inevitably, the fever dies down (usually by the weekend, with a few stragglers looking for copies weeks, months and years later) and the effects are negligible. There’s very little that will turn someone who had no interest in reading comics into a full fledged Wednesday warrior overnight. Regardless, events like this always give me hope, and usually net a small handful of new customers who didn’t know we existed, and liked the service enough to return. Almost 100% of these return customers are people who took the time to actually read the book they came into purchase, instead of stashing it away in a box that they’ll bring back to us several years down the road for All The Money. Some books make this transition easier than others, offering a smooth read with interesting bits of storytelling that dig the hooks in. I remember the Death of Captain America netting quite a few return customers, as did the Death of Johnny Storm. I doubt the Death of Archie will have the same effect – and it all comes down to the company’s lack of experience when dealing with these big events.

When you open Life With Archie #36, you’re greeted with two full pages that explain the series to date in near excruciating detail. The opening gives new readers an overview of what the book was up until this point: an exploration of two possible futures where Archie married Betty and Veronica. This, along with the information that Kevin Keller is running for Senate on a platform of gun control and gay rights is all you need to know to enjoy what follows. Instead, the recap spends time talking about all the various differences and similarities between the two realities. It even spends a paragraph detailing the time that an Evil and Good Dilton almost destroy the Archie multiverse using science. None of this information is needed, and serves only to confuse the inexperienced reader who thinks they might want to dip their toe into the medium.

LifeWithArchie_36_RamonPerez.jpg

After selling comics at the shop for nearly eight years, I’ve come to realize that the best way to sell a comic is to give people as little information as possible. Have you ever sat through an hour long lecture as to why the Silver Age Legion is the best Legion? I sure have. You know what it didn’t do? Make me want to read Legion comics. In fact, it made me want to avoid them. Passion needs to be discovered, not explained – and Archie Comics failed in that this week. They did a poor job selling a book that was going to sell itself, something that could have been easily avoided with a stronger editorial hand.

The issue itself is quite good. Instead of giving new readers the same story in both realities, Paul Kupperberg and Pat & Tim Kennedy play things fast and loose with some pronouns and character placement, allowing the story to function viably in both realities, utilizing a form of brevity for the concept. It’s not high art by any means, but it’s a nice, suitable story that brings a character’s journey to a poignant end. The only failing seems to be how eager the company is to explain things that don’t need to be explained, giving the reader a jumble of information that would have been better served as a story they explored later, than explained in a blurb. That said, Archie is Archie, and will endure forever, so it’s not like people are going to be bucked off the train to Riverdale. The event continues to paint comics as a medium that is indesipherable to get into – after all, if you can’t understand what’s going on in an Archie title, what hope would you have for anything else on the stands.

Regardless, this book is going to sell. It was sold before it hit the stands, and will be a novelty for a long time to come. It’s just a shame it couldn’t sell the industry at the same time.

[Brandon Schatz has been working behind the comic book counter for eight years. He's spent the past four as the manager of Wizard's Comics and Collectibles in Edmonton, Alberta. In his spare time, he writes about the comics he likes over at Comics! The Blog and works on building his comic book recommendation engine over at Variant Edition. You can find him on twitter @soupytoasterson. The opinions expressed are those of Schatz and do not necessarily reflect those of The Beat]

7 Comments on The Retailer’s View // The Death of Archie and Selling Comics, last added: 7/18/2014
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21. The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 4: Geof Darrow and Kinokuniya

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngLive from San Diego Comic Con, it’s More To Come! Publishers Weekly’s podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In part four of More To Come’s San Diego Comic-Con special podcast, Calvin Reid interviews comic artist and writer Geof Darrow about creating Shaolin Cowboy and The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. Then, he speaks with Terence Irvins, graphic novel buyer at Japan-based bookstore chain Kinokuniya about their upcoming big push into the American comics market

Listen to this episode in streaming here, download it direct here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

0 Comments on The Beat Podcasts! – SDCC ’14 Day 4: Geof Darrow and Kinokuniya as of 7/28/2014 1:16:00 AM
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22. Sales Chart: Graphic Novel sales and Guardians of the Galaxy

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In yesterday’s comments on the Mike Dawson Mid-career assessment, retailer Brian Hibbs stepped in with some comments, including this one

Heidi: I’d argue that the sales charts show that it’s the prevalent* one? Exceedingly few OGNs succeed, and the field is littered with ones that failed.

This is a battle between Brian and I as old and busted as Batman vs The Joker. Brian thinks OGNS are useless from a sales viewpoint as far as the DM goes, and I think they are a magnificent channel for comics and sales. In fact, a few months ago out schism led to a rather spirited debate in this post: Retailer roundtable: Are graphic novels a “sh*tty* business model?
The upshot of that one was that comics retailers still sell more periodicals and collections of periodicals. Fair enough. But being snotty, I decided to take a look at the Amazon bestsellers charts for comics and GNs, a rolling average snapshot that reflects sales very definitely outside the DM. I have this on a feed and I check it every night, so I’m pretty familiar with the books that have been doing week for the last few months (Saga, Walking Dead). Today’s is quite different, but let’s take a look any way. I’ve highlighted the OGNs on the list (quirks in format are from how I copied the list.)

1. Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & L…
2.The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out W… by Robert Kirkman
3.Batman Eternal (2014- ) #1by James T. Tynion IV
4. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
5. Seconds: A Graphic Novelby Bryan Lee O’Malley
6. Star Wars: Jedi Academy, Return of th…by Jeffrey Brown

7. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Lega…by Dan Abnett
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cos…by Brian Michael Bendis
9. Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown
10. Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
11. Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father…by Art Spiegelman
12. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pl…by Roz Chast
13. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Sit…by Allie Brosh

14. Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
15. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyby Douglas Adams (??)
16. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rif… by Gene Luen Yang
17. Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
18. The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia by Akira Himekawa
19. The Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel: Spide…by Frank Berrios
20. Thanos: The Infinity Revelationby Jim Starlin

Setting aside the ringers on the list (Hitchhikers Guide and Hyrule Hysteria ) eight out of the eighteen titles are OGNs. I suppose you could call that Spider-man Little Golden Book an OGN, but I won’t.

Even setting aside the perennials (Maus and Persepolis) there are still 6 recent works on the list. Roz Chast’s book has been a regular bestseller since it came out, and Hyperbole and a Half has been a monster seller. (That’s a hybrid work, admittedly.) I expect to see Bryan Lee O’Malleys Seconds on the list for quite a while. The big winner is Jeffrey Brown, who can’t miss with Star Wars, it seems. 



Anyway what does that prove? These could be the exceptional few that Hibbs mentioned, or the top of the iceberg. Anyway, throwing it out there. 



The other big news on the list is…Guardians of the Galaxy! In all the deserved attention to Jim Starlin and Bill Mantlo, it has barely been mentioned that the actual line-up of the GotG that the movie was based on was the version by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, a writing team now broken up but still a potent best seller. Their first collection is at #81 in the top 100 books, so it’s probably selling briskly. 


It’s pretty unusual when a comic book based movie comes out to see comics collections sell this well when there isn’t a direct connection with the source material. I don’t know how long it will last (guessing a few weeks) but I hope it gives some of the authors a nice boost.

6 Comments on Sales Chart: Graphic Novel sales and Guardians of the Galaxy, last added: 8/6/2014
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23. Comics shop owner claims mention of rape room was met with a stern frown; female employee still fired

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Comics got a brand new he-said/she-said with the story of Jennifer Williams, who was employed by Harrison’s Comics in Salem, MA for all of four days before being fired. According to Harrison’s it was for performance issues. According to Williams, it’s because

she complained about a remote storage area being called “the rape room”

and the manager hugging her without her consent. The controversy played itself out over social media, as these things do, with Larry Harrison, the owner of the store, claiming he didn’t now know of the firing but saying if people wanted to know the real story, they should come to the store to hear it.


Williams has not been shy about telling her side of things, and launched a blog to tell her version of Harrison contacting her. Accoridng to Williams, after she tweeted about the rape room, upon com gin to work the next day she was blocked from entering. SHe also says that Harrison seemed less concerned with the fact that employees of his store would joke about a “rape room” with a new employee than about her firing and how it went down.

Harrison finally released a statement on Facebook, and a whole new story has emerged, one that involves a staff meeting, five witnesses, and a different new employee hearing “stat room” and thinking it meant “stat rape room” and being met with “The group trainer frowned at the employee who mentioned rape and sternly said “We do NOT have a rape room.” This was the last first and last time “a rape room” was ever mentioned in Harrison’s until Ms. Williams’ took to social media and we were put in the position of having to defend ourselves.

Anyway here’s the whole statement:

Dear Fellow Comic Lovers and Gaming Enthusiasts;

As you may have heard, there are allegations of sexual harassment and unfair termination against Harrison’s being circulated by a former employee on social media.

Harrison’s takes these allegations seriously and denies them all. We do not condone inflammatory, intolerant, sexist, racist or family-unfriendly language or behavior in any of our stores. We are committed to running an inclusive, family-friendly business.

The individual making the accusations, Ms. Williams, was terminated for documented, performance-based reasons only. This was explained to her at the time of her termination, when she was given full pay for her time at Harrison’s. Her employment was terminated in a professional, impartial manner in the presence of another employee.

There is certainly no “rape room” at Harrison’s Comics (or anywhere, we hope!). Unfortunately, because this repulsive term has been so heavily publicized in connection with our stores, we feel compelled to explain how it originated:

Ms Williams was hired on a 30-day trial basis, as were five other employees she was being trained with. Training includes a tour of the store, including a room we call the “statue room.”

If you’ve been in our Salem store, you know we have many statues displayed in locked cases throughout the store. They are displayed behind glass because statues are fragile, valuable collectibles that can easily break if improperly handled.

The boxes these statues come in are specifically designed to protect them, so the boxes are stored in the “statue room,” a practice that’s been in place for at least ten years. When a buyer purchases a statue, an employee goes to the statue room, finds that statue’s box, and repacks it for safe travel to its new home.

While the group of trainee employees were being shown the room it was referred to only as the “statue room” or the “stat room” for short. This prompted one of the new trainees (not Ms. Williams) to question “Stat, like stat rape?” The group trainer frowned at the employee who mentioned rape and sternly said “We do NOT have a rape room.” This was the last first and last time “a rape room” was ever mentioned in Harrison’s until Ms. Williams’ took to social media and we were put in the position of having to defend ourselves.

I have been a comic store owner for 21 years and this is deeply disturbing to me. If anything like Ms. Williams described did occur here, the employee responsible would be terminated immediately. I ask that people look at the facts before concluding I am guilty. I have 9 female employees and 10 male employees presently working in my stores. The previous manager of our flagship Salem store is a woman, and she managed it for two years before leaving to open her own store.

We have an exemplary reputation in Salem, Massachusetts and the comic and gaming community as a professional, respectful, fair and welcoming workplace. We appreciate the support of those who know and defended us against these allegations while others leaped to judgment. We wish Ms. Williams the best in her future endeavors.

Larry Harrison

Now this being Facebook, there are many different opinions in the comments. Many past customers (mostly women) are not at all surprised by Williams’ allegations and there are a lot of stories that paint a picture of the store as being a real Android’s Dungeon. Other shoppers, mostly male, think it’s fine.

Now, as far as he said and she said goes, I would like to point out some of the fascinating comments here, like this one from a Marie Loging:

It’s between the owner and the ex employee. I still intend to shop there. Think it was a bad idea to publish this though. Makes the store look bad. I hope if it happened for real, that there is physical proof and I hope the store had a security camera there to cover their side. If she has sex in that room, it could have been mutual, and is just claiming it rape because a) got fired or b) because it was a one time thing and she wanted more


WHOA WHAT THE FUCK. This person has fabricated a whole sex act and security cameras out of the incident? This is how telephone works.

A few more:

Kain Mcgreed — Just look how the Feminist eat this up.

Renee Mallett — I was sad to see this story about the store. But, honestly, was not surprised. I lived in the North Shore area when I was about 18 and the shop wasn’t even it’s own stand alone store yet. It was my go-to store for several years and I watched it grow into one of the best comic stores I’ve been to anywhere. I got a LOT of comments from employees about how I looked and what I wore back when I was younger. It’s been a long time since I was a customer of the Salem store (I did frequent the Manchester location with my kids over the past few years and was never treated with anything but the greatest respect and courtesy) but if the culture today at the Salem store is ANYTHING like it was back in my day I can totally see this kind of comment being said.

Kathryn Pickett — Larry, as someone who spent years as a faithful patron of your store, I am sorry to inform you that the language and attitude of your employees was frequently NOT family friendly, with cursing, explicit sexual comments (sometimes directed at me, when I was underage) and even derision concerning my purchase choices.

I have loved your store and had many wonderful positive experiences there, but the negative experiences I lived through as a customer make these allegations completely plausible to me. I am personally familiar with some of your current and former employees, and find Ms. Williams’ account much more likely than your own above.

If you are truly trying to make your business the kind of place described in your above statement, let this serve as a wake-up call. It is not there. It hasn’t been there. Denying this is a problem doesn’t do a thing to convince me as I know through first hand experience that it IS a problem. Until you accept that there may be an actual issue with the culture and attitude of some of your employees and take measures to rectify, you are going to lose business and suffer bad publicity. That’s not a threat, it’s simply fact.


There seems to be a fundamental ignorance among those blaming Williams for being a disgruntled ex-employee: she made the claims of the rape room BEFORE SHE WAS FiRED. The sequence of events was that she allegedly heard the comment, complained about it, and even tweeted it, and then showed up for work the next day and was barred from the store. The cause and effect here are entirely with Williams’ chain of events.

And if you’re going to go with a chain of evidence, the many real customers at Harrison’s who think there is a real problem there indicate that where there’s smoke, there may very well be fire.

Harrison’s has a PR disaster on their hands obviously, and waiting five days to make a statement hasn’t helped matters any. And as armchair sleuth Gene Ha wrote, according to Massachusetts employment laws, they may have a king sized legal headache, as well:

Yep, that’s the key. In Massachusetts any business with 6+ employees has to create and follow a sexual harassment policy. [Note: I'm a comic book artist not a lawyer, yadda yadda]

What happened could be considered a “hostile work environment.” From the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Guidelines” website:

In some circumstances, a hostile environment may be established based on a single incident, due to its severity, despite the fact that the conduct is not frequent or repetitive. Moreover, purely verbal conduct, without a physical component, may be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. However, minor, isolated conduct does not constitute sexual harassment.

The rape joke and the embrace were bad but not a big liability yet for the shop.

What Harrison’s owner should have done is talk to the manager and make sure that he doesn’t continue being a jerk and that he can’t retaliate. If they’d done that then there would have been no problems. Got that, everyone? The joke wasn’t the big problem.

Instead, after scheduling her for more hours the shop tells her she’s fired when she reports back for work. More from the MA government website:

Employers should instruct recipients of sexual harassment complaints to inform complainants and alleged perpetrators that they will:
*keep the complaint confidential to the extent practicable under the circumstances;
*conduct a prompt, neutral investigation into the allegations; and
*not tolerate any form of retaliation against the complainant for having complained of sexual harassment.

Yep, it looks like they screwed up every element of their legally required response. More from the MA gov on what Harrison’s was supposed to do:

Generally, remedial action consists of the following:
*promptly halting any ongoing harassment;
*taking prompt, appropriate disciplinary action against the harasser;
*taking effective actions to prevent the recurrence of harassment, including conducting a sexual harassment training where appropriate, and
*making the complainant whole by restoring any lost employment benefits or opportunities.

There’s a saying: it’s not the crime it’s the coverup… that’s the bigger crime.


More to come, I’m sure.

16 Comments on Comics shop owner claims mention of rape room was met with a stern frown; female employee still fired, last added: 9/7/2014
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24. Watch Comics by the Numbers with Brett Schenker and The Beat

This year at Baltimore Brett Schenker and I presented a panel called Comics by the Numbers Panel. Schenker is a political analyst and the author of perhaps the most cited post ever on The Beat, the much loved not at all controversial post Market Research Says 46.67% of Comic Fans are Female. The pane; was taped and you can watch (or probably better, listen) above. Depsite it being the first panel on Saturday there was a healthy audience of about 30-40 people, and the questions were really smart and engaged, which is the best you can ask on a panel.

Because you can’t see our slides, we’ve embedded them below.

This is an incredibly important topic for comics and all of pop culture, and I’m gald t be able to make this information available to all. For those who might want to confer further with Brett, his website is here, and he’s @graphicpolicy on Twitter.

1 Comments on Watch Comics by the Numbers with Brett Schenker and The Beat, last added: 9/13/2014
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25. The Retailer’s View: Eventful

In August, I went on vacation with my girlfriend (who is now my fiancée) and took some well deserved time away from the store and the world of comics in general. Being Mr. Manager for a shop and writing about comics on the internet doesn’t allow for a lot of extracurriculars, so stepping away for three weeks was a welcome change.

When I returned to the store a week ago, I was met with the sight of the first week’s worth of Future’s End books spilling from the shelves, and almost a longbox of The Death of Wolverine sitting in a box as overstock. Immediately, I felt my heart tighten. This sensation was exacerbated when the first customer of the day walked through the door, grabbed a handful of each lenticular and foil embossed cover and inquired as to what the investment value of the books would be. I smiled even as my veins filled with poison, and I told them what I tell everybody: if there was a science to making money off of comics, I would be a far richer man than the one you see today.

046.DCC .BstrGl.1.0 384x591 5390e24a6b24d7.98673751 194x300 The Retailers View: Eventful

SUDDENLY TIGERS

Let’s take a few steps back and give a little context for Future’s End and The Death of Wolverine. Given the fact that you’re reading an article about comic book retail on the internet, it’s probably safe to say you know the basics, so we’ll skip past the bits about the how’s and why’s of both series and go knee deep into the retail bits.

As detailed in my first column for this site, DC’s methods for this year’s round of lenticular covers were informed by last year’s madness. In an effort to bypass issues with supply not meeting demand, the company asked that retailers submit their final orders for the books at the end of May. For normal comics, the final order cut off for a book usually arrives three-and-a-half weeks before said issue will hit the shelves, allowing retailers to adjust numbers using relatively current data. Placing orders at the end of May meant extrapolating demand using a set of data that would be better utilized for books shipping in late June or July, which made things hard to balance. On top of that, there were a heap of other troubling things to deal with, such as:

  • Finding a balance between last year’s artificially high demand and this year’s guaranteed supply.
  • Guessing how the line would tie into the weekly shipping Future’s End series, and how that would or would not effect certain books in the line.
  • Trying to set numbers for titles that had yet to debut, such as Grayson.
  • Dealing with the late announcement of the creative teams for each title, and attempting to inform readers about the books that would and would not feature the book’s regular team.
  • Guessing what other retailers within driving distance would order and how it would effect short and long term demand.
  • Discovering some kind of alchemy that would tell me which customers would leave and arrive in the course of a quarter of the year, including the crap chute of “how many students from the nearby university will want to open up files and/or grab comics”.
  • Guessing whether or not the Booster Gold issue was the start of a new ongoing or mini-series or just a one shot.

All of this while dealing with the more regular considerations such as trending audience interest, spending budgets, and oh yeah, placing initial orders for books that were going to start shipping in July, which were solicited alongside them, and due on the same day.

The fact that I have yet to sell out of any of the new lenticular books is a minor miracle, especially considering the fact that I placed my bet on these covers selling only slightly better than the books would sell during a regular month. On the other hand, there are more than a few that I splurged on that didn’t quite ignite interest. Will I sell them all? Probably. The covers are still quite the draw, and will probably turn over regularly in the back issue bins – but for more than a few books, it will take more time than usual to turn my orders into a profit. Luckily, I’m running the kind of store that can weather a line of books taking a bit longer to sell than usual. I shudder to think what would happen to a store who couldn’t easily absorb such a stock. Even if they push through, their purchasing power for the upcoming Christmas season will be severely truncated, causing an ever expanding ripple effect due to a couple of bad hunches.

Death of Wolverine 3 Cover 198x300 The Retailers View: Eventful

Now, on the other side of things, there’s The Death of Wolverine. Instead of matching DC pound for pound with a bit of line-wide craziness, Marvel opted for the safer track: one big bet on one big event. The comparative risk between the two ventures couldn’t be more different. Over at DC, their event is a gamble that involves almost their entire regular superhero line. Over at Marvel, it’s a gamble that involves the death ($) of one of their most recognizable characters ($$). A decent order was going to be placed on the title regardless, but there were a few things that made this pill a little harder to swallow than most:

  • Marvel was going to ship the book weekly, which meant that proper order adjustments were going to be nearly impossible under the best of conditions.
  • The company was not soliciting the book under the best of conditions – which in this case meant all four issues were solicited early, and with a final order cut off date of July 14th – whole seven and a half weeks before the first issue would hit the stands.
  • The first issue carried with it no less than eight different variants, all requiring different order thresholds to hit – a logistical nightmare.

In the interim, the company didn’t make things any easier. In between the solicitation copy hitting the publication and final orders coming due, they dribbled out several changes to the line up, including foil embossed covers (only the first issue was going to carry that “feature”), along with a price jump “order what you want” Canadian variants (which feature the same covers as the original books with photoshopped CANADIAN features like our flag and the word “CANADA”) and a smattering of more qualified variants. Does your head ache yet? Oh, just you wait.

Death of Wolverine 3 Canada Variant 197x300 The Retailers View: Eventful

Ohhhhh, Canada.

Two of the variants on tap for issue one – the “Deadpool” and “Skottie Young” covers – required retailers to match All New X-Men #25 orders at 250% if they wanted to get them in. While I generally dislike all variant covers, qualifications like this always grind my gears. First, a retailer has to take a look at their numbers, and determine if this is a smart thing to do. Now, in this instance, All New X-Men #25 was a book that sold an estimated 63,827 copies, so for simplicities sake, let’s say there is a shop out there that ordered 64 copies of that book. Forgetting whether or not they sold through that many copies (because it doesn’t matter to Marvel or Diamond), that means they would have to order at least 160 copies to even qualify to get those covers. Will the money you bring in grabbing all of those extra copies match the money those special covers bring in?

Bonus questions: say you decide against beefing up your numbers. How many customers will you lose out on because they were looking for that specific cover? How many of those customers would have bought more than one copy of The Death of Wolverine? How many would have bought the whole run from you, but are now going to do so elsewhere? How many would have eventually set up a file at your shop? These are all crazy questions, but every retailer has them swirling in their head when they place these orders – and I haven’t even gotten to the really crazy parts yet.

In addition to the 250% covers, Marvel offered variants ranging from “1 for every 50” copies ordered, all the way to “1 for every 500” copies, so even if you could make those 250% numbers work with relative ease, they teased you with something even more unattainable. Dare you go for broke and claw up to 500 copies for your store? If you sell it, and a few of the other variants, will it offset the cost of unsold copies? Even if you attempt to stretch your fingers for this goal, and even if you sell those variants… is it really worth it in the long run? Couldn’t money spent on 500 copies of Wolverine – many of which will end up being remaindered somehow – be put to better use by bringing in a wider range of products? But again, if you don’t try and get that cherry variant, will you be losing out on big money? Can you really afford not to?

The final knife in Marvel’s game to sell a ton of this book came in the form of some bonus ordering incentives. This bit will be easier to show you as a picture than anything else. For issue one and four:

dow2 300x72 The Retailers View: Eventful

click to embiggen

And for issues two and three:

dow 300x72 The Retailers View: Eventful

click to embiggen

On the surface, it appears as though they’re helping you out. Want to try and get those crazy variants? We’ve made it a little easier on your wallet, champ. Congrats. Go nuts. Reality happens to be a bit darker than that though. As always, Marvel could give a crap about whether or not you’re selling their books. All they want to do is make sure you’re buying their books. You could purchase 500 copies and set fire to them all for all they care – once they have your money, they’re good.

Now full disclosure: my chain went for the gusto and ordered 500 copies. We took a look at all of the information at our hands, looked at what the books were going to cost us with Marvel’s extra discounts added to the mix, and worked out a system where the numbers worked for us. Given my own personal druthers, I would have gone more in the direction of one of Aaron Sorkin’s TV shows and make the principled stand. I would have ordered something that matched reader demand more than collector demand, but I manage a store that was built and funded by other hands, and at times, I end up serving other interests. I end up walking into the store and seeing a longbox worth of comics sitting in overstock. I also end up seeing a guy spend enough money on a small handful of the variants to offset our cost for the entire set of 500, so it all balances out, I guess. Where was I going with this? Ah yes.

Imagine you’re a retailer. What do you want to order? This goes for both events, by the way, DC’s Future’s End and Marvel’s Death of Wolverine. How do you place your orders? What things do you want to keep in the front of your mind? Do you want to expend the extra effort it takes to put together orders for an entire line of lenticular covers months in advance, or do you opt for the simple solution of ordering what you’d normally order? Do you become bothered by the idea that if you just do regular numbers, collectors might raid your supply and you won’t be left with enough copies to satisfy those who pop into your store every week and grab comics from the shelves? Do you bother adjusting your numbers in order to get variant editions, or do you just let things lie? Will you allow the promise of big money balloon your orders up? Do you make that gamble?

These are the questions that plague a retailer’s mind when they set about ordering your comics month in and month out. Not only are they dealing with variants and odd shipping schedules and order thresholds, but they’re doing so for hundreds of titles each and every month. Not all of them require the same amount of thought, but they all require a modicum of consideration – especially when you have to make sure you order within a budget. You can’t just do all the math for determining orders for an event book and call it a day, you have to consider what that order will do to the rest of your budget. You have to keep things on track so that they don’t spiral out of control – because while there isn’t a science to making money on comics, there’s a surefire way to lose it all: getting lost chasing big money instead of focusing on the actual money you have to spend.

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